Fernando Alonso will have one of the most decorated race engineers in the paddock to oversee his Indy 500 debut as Andretti Autosport technical director Eric Bretzman has been assigned to the Spaniard for the month of May.
Bretzman, who moved from Chip Ganassi’s organization to the Andretti squad during the offseason, earned his stripes as Scott Dixon’s engineer where the two combined to win 34 IndyCar races, three championships and the 2008 Indy 500 during a 12-year span.
“Eric is going to be engineering Fernando’s car, and he’s been such an awesome addition all year,” Andretti Autosport COO Rob Edwards told RACER. “We’re only three races in, but we’ve come out of the blocks a lot stronger than we were a year ago and he’s had a huge amount to do with that. A year ago, Craig Hampson would have been doing the extra car, but he’s got a full-time job now, so using Eric means we can keep it all in-house.”
In addition to engineering Alonso’s Andretti/McLaren Honda program, Bretzman (BELOW) will also juggle his role as technical director for the team during its expansion to six cars for the 101st Indy 500.
“Obviously the balance there for us is all of his other roles and responsibilities, but he’s going to have a very capable supporting cast on the car to help with the workload,” Edwards said. “It’s a natural extension of what we’re doing for the rest of the year with people we have already.”
With Alonso spending his Monday at the Andretti shop in Indianapolis to have a seat made (BELOW) and meet with more of the staff that will look after his effort, the team also confirmed the engineer for its sixth entry for Jack Harvey. Run in partnership with Michael Shank Racing, Harvey will have Zach Eakin to steer his rookie Indy 500 campaign.
“Zach came through the relationship we have with Mike Shank, and he was part of the original plan to run Stefan Wilson,” Edwards added. “Stefan and Zach worked together last year at Indianapolis, and through the various shuffling that has gone on, it seemed logical to keep that piece in place.”
Edwards expects Bretzman and Eakin to quickly blend into Andretti’s deep pool of race engineering talent.
“Eric and Zach have some familiarity from working together in the past at Ganassi,” he said. “In terms of building continuity over a short period of time, it made good sense to go with people who knew each other already.”
Working with Alonso will return Bretzman to an IndyCar timing stand for the first time since the end of the 2014 season. After being shifted to Ganassi’s NASCAR program in 2015, he spent two seasons away from open-wheel and watched as his race engineer brother Ben earned the 2016 IndyCar title at Team Penske with Simon Pagenaud. Through their respective drivers, the friendly family rivalry will resume next month at Indianapolis.