Ben Hanley believes that he and the DragonSpeed team have plenty to build upon after an encouraging NTT Data IndyCar Series debut at St Petersburg last weekend.
The race was the first in IndyCar for team and driver alike, who are regulars in WEC prototypes, as well as being Hanley’s first open-wheel race in nine years. Preparations were complicated by team only taking delivery of its car three weeks ago, and the challenge clicked up further when mechanical problems brought an early end to all three of the team’s practice sessions.
However Hanley rebounded to qualify a surprise 12th after squeezing in a lap on reds right before the first of two red flags during qualifying, and ran as high as eighth during the race before eventually settling for 18th.
“It’s been a really positive weekend,” said the Briton. “We knew we were jumping in at the deep end, so simply finishing is an achievement in itself. Our longest run before the race was just eight laps, so we learned a lot more about the car, and tried out some aspects of IndyCar racing that are totally new to us, like the push-to-pass. I have to thank Elton [Julian, team owner] for turning this dream into a reality, the crew’s fantastic race prep and pit stops, and the engineers who made the car more competitive each time out.”
Julian echoed Hanley’s enthusiasm, and said that the experience in St Petersburg has given the team a clear direction for the remainder of its IndyCar campaign.
“Running the full distance let us get a feel for how an IndyCar race unfolds, and even experiment a bit with strategies and settings,” he said. “Despite the car only running for the first time last Monday and our problems in practice, we not only finished, but hauled ourselves to within a second of the midfield pace over the course of the weekend. I’m super-proud of Ben and the team, and grateful to the IndyCar paddock for the welcome and support they’ve given us – we’re honored to be part of this great show.”
DragonSpeed has only committed to a partial schedule in IndyCar this year, with plans to return for Barber, the Indy 500, Road America and Mid-Ohio while seeking the funding to run full-time in 2020. In the meantime, it still has its sports car program to keep it occupied, and will be back on track at this weekend’s 1000 Miles of Sebring WEC event.