Andretti Autosport made a series of announcements Saturday afternoon prior to the MAVTV Izod IndyCar Race at Auto Club Speedway. None came as much of a surprise … more like suspicions confirmed. There was shuffling of players back and forth on and off the podium for the several announcements.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, President/CEO of Andretti Autosport, and ART ST. CYR, President, Honda Performance Development announced that Andretti Autosport will switch to Honda engines, with a multi-year contract starting with the 2014 season – a move rumored at least since the Houston IndyCar race. Andretti admitted talks had begun prior to that weekend. He said “It’s like coming home.”
Andretti Autosport has been with Chevrolet for the past two years, and won the 2012 Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships with RYAN HUNTER-REAY.
St.Cyr said “We’re extremely happy to welcome Michael Andretti and his Andretti Autosport organization back into the Honda Racing family. As many of you will remember, the Andretti organization played a major role in Honda’s success during the previous era of manufacturer competition in Indy car racing; and we’re looking forward to adding more victories and championships to an already impressive total.”
Chevrolet’s statement from JIM CAMPBELL, U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports: “We’d like to thank MICHAEL ANDRETTI and the entire Andretti Autosport organization for their partnership in IndyCar Series competition during 2012 and 2013. Michael, J-F THORMANN and JOHN LOPES lead a quality organization that resulted in RYAN HUNTER-REAY winning the 2012 IndyCar Series driver championship. We would like to thank the Andretti Autosport drivers for their on-track achievements that contributed to Chevrolet clinching the 2012 manufacturers’ championship. They are all true professionals on and off the track. We wish them well and look forward to spirited competition in the future.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE has been a pivotal driver in the ongoing IndyCar Silly Season Saga. He became a free agent after his Go Daddy sponsorship announced it was leaving IndyCar at the end of the 2013 season. He was courted by and had talks with several teams. The suspense ended Saturday. Hinch renewed with Andretti.
The Mayor of Hinchtown will drive No.27 with primary sponsorship from United Fiber & Data. CHAD TAYLOR, Chairman of UFD, told of the company being formed by three musicians from the band LIVE and their Think Loud Development Company. Hinch promised not to become a fourth musician. He’ll leave his guitar on the wall.
UFD is jumping into motorsports sponsorship in a big way. UFD will continue to be a major associate sponsor on MARCO ANDRETTI’s No.25 car, and will also join RHR’s No.28. And then as if that’s not enough, UFD will be the primary sponsor for MATTHEW BRABHAM, who is moving up to Indy Lights next season, after winning the Pro Mazda Championship with 13 victories and 15 podiums out of 16 races – a series record.
Michael Andretti said he was glad to make the Hinch announcement, along with sponsorship; no doubt almost as happy as Hinch was to have his next year’s plans finalized before the end of the current season instead of going down to the wire.
Hinch said “It’s great to be back with Andretti. Obviously, this has been home for the last two years and we preach so much about chemistry in this team and to keep it together is awesome.”
Both Andretti and Hinch were quick and effusive in their praise and thanks to Go Daddy for its sponsorship.
And last but not least was the announcement that young Brabham will continue to race for Andretti going forward. He comes from well-storied and famous Australian racing family – the son of former racer GEOFF BRABHAM, nephew of racer DAVID BRABHAM and former racer GARY BRABHAM, and grandson of the great JACK BRABHAM. Although the teenager grew up in the US, he still has traces of an Aussie accent.
Matthew Brabham brings with him the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development scholarship money for winning the Pro Mazda championship. He’s no stranger to the Mazda scholarships. He won the USF2000 Championship in 2012, moving him up to Pro Mazda – the only driver so far to so do.
Brabham said “I’m really excited to be moving into Indy Lights next year. I remember seeing the Indy Lights cars for the first time in St. Petersburg when I was racing USF2000 there last year; I was blown away by how quick they were and how cool they sounded. It’s going to be a fun year, and I’m very pleased to be on board with Andretti Autosport for a second year. Especially so after the fantastic year we shared this year in the Pro Mazda Championship. I’m so grateful to CHAD TAYLOR and BILL HYNES with United Fiber & Data and Mazda for giving me this incredible opportunity for next season!”
Andretti Autosport is not only involved in all levels of the IndyCar family, he’s moving to the new FIA Formula E series for electric formula cars. Andretti has not nominated his Formula E driver.
In Formula E, Andretti is joining JAY PENSKE of Dragon Racing, who will also field a Formula E team. JAY PENSKE of Dragon Racing has nominated SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS as the driver for the majority of the races – depending on IndyCar conflicts. Bourdais is moving to the KVSH IndyCar team next season. While Andretti is remaining in IndyCar, Dragon Racing is not.
The Formula E series has scheduled 10 rounds, with two in the US – Los Angeles on 14 February 2014 and Miami on 18 April 2014. No specific venues have been named.