China's Ho-Pin Tung, who this season has been the reserve driver for Renault F1 and competed in GP2 with the Renault-affiliated DAMS team, made an overture to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series with a two-day outing in the No. 88 FAZZT Race Team's Dallara-Honda at Sebring International Raceway over the weekend. Regular driver Alex Tagliani, team COO and general manager Rob Edwards and chief engineer Allen McDonald pronounced themselves impressed with the 27-year-old's technical adaptation and feedback.
“It's a very new thing for me and so many different things compared to Europe,” said Tung, who was born in The Netherlands but carries a Chinese racing license. “The tracks in the (IZOD IndyCar Series) are all very different and it requires quite a bit of adaptation. The car is just a racing car. It has four wheels and a steering wheel and you have to try to be as quick as you can. But I was impressed with how it handled and it was pleasant to drive.
“Being here in Sebring to get a small taste of an IndyCar is important. I have to take it step by step, and the first step is good. It would be interesting to see what it would be like to be running with other cars, but just as a foundation it's good.”
Tagliani said he would welcome a complementary driver to expand the technical database and potentially improve on-track results.
“When you look at it from an organizational standpoint, we want to have a combination,” said Tagliani, who said that even a third entry could materialize. “If commercially it makes sense, and on the operation side it makes sense, then you're in a win-win situation. You have a guy to work with you and improve the speed of the car, but at the same time commercially it helps strengthen the future of the team.
"Ho-Pin is a likable guy and fast. I think he would add a lot to the IndyCar Series and our team.”
Tung has represented China in A1GP, competed in Formula Ford, Formula BMW Asia (2003 champion), German Formula 3 (2006 champion), GP2 Asia and the Superleague Formula in addition to GP2 (he finished 14th in the season finale Nov. 14 at Abu Dhabi with the Racing Engineering team). He has an extensive fan base and media following in China – and IndyCar has been exploring prospects for racing in China in the near future.
“Motorsports is still relatively new in China, but it's developing rapidly,” Tung said. “IndyCar is the highest single-seater series in the U.S., and with the Indy 500 being the biggest motorsports event in the world, it's all things that attract Chinese people. It would be important for me to do well. We Chinese are very focused on performance, and I'm confident I could do a good job in IndyCar.”