Formula 2 veteran and Williams F1 test and reserve driver Jack Aitken got his long-awaited turn in the NTT IndyCar Series on Monday as the Briton tested with Ed Carpenter Racing at Sebring. Aitken produced a best lap of 53.4361s, which placed the No. 20 Chevy P4 among the four entries on the day. Nyck de Vries was the pace setter on Monday with the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda (52.5526s).
Having visited the U.S. during the 2020 offseason in search of IndyCar opportunities, the 26-year-old continued pushing for a testing opportunity — with the potential of a race seat — that finally came to fruition with ECR.
“I heard a lot of scary stories from some drivers about how brutal these cars are, how heavy they are, the steering is hard, how bumpy the track was gonna be, and it is bumpy, for sure, but it was a lot more manageable than I expected,” Aitken told RACER. “We did a lot of laps today, and it was a lot of fun. It feels like an F2 car with more downforce and better tires. It hooks up really nice, packs a decent punch. I’d love to drive it at a faster track somewhere like Barber of Sonoma. I think it would just fly there.”
Aitken described the day as having an intensive focus on working through ECR’s long to-do list with chassis setup changes.
“The guys were great and I really enjoyed working with them,” the 26-year-old said. “Rinus [VeeKay] was there, so I actually had quite a lot of support and it’s good to have voices of experience there. Even though Rinus is still young, he’s done two seasons now and he knows what he’s talking about. We were pretty competitive early on this morning and we just dove straight into a pretty extensive testing program and had a lot to get through some stuff they wanted to get me familiar with. Just in case I do end up doing some work with them next year, and then some stuff on their side that they wanted to dig into.
“So it was quite a quite a varied in that sense. But I learned a lot. I think a couple of the other guys were running overtake (push-to-pass), and we did not. We could have gone faster if we wanted to, and given the timesheet, I think we’re more competitive than what it suggests.
“They want to improve and to try and find a bit of ground on some of the other teams. So there was quite a big push to work through some items today and develop the car as much as we could. Hopefully, I was able to help them with that. But I think we ended up in a pretty decent place. And we got a lot of laps on the board. So it was it was a solid day.”
Team owner Carpenter recently told RACER he hopes to decide on which driver will join him for 2022 on the road and street courses in the No. 20 Chevy. The opportunity comes with a financial ask where the driver is required to bring a few million dollars to seal the deal, and Aitken knows he’s one of a growing number of options that ECR will consider.
“I would love to do it, to come and do the street circuits and road courses, and I’m really interested in the ovals,” he said. “Years ago, I almost did an oval test in a Pro Mazda before it got cancelled. But here, I see I have a chance to try and help the team and Rinus move up the grid, and I feel really comfortable in the car straightaway.
“I’m fairly confident I could jump in and do a good job straight away. But there’s the commercial side to it as well, and we’ve got to get that right. And there’s going to be a bit of talking from here on before a decision gets made. I would love to be on the grid. But let’s see.”