Newman/Haas Racing still has not confirmed plans for this year's IZOD IndyCar Series, but the team is continuing preparations. Oriol Servia, who brought NHR a win and seven podium finishes, and James Hinchcliffe (LEFT), who was runner-up for the Firestone Indy Lights title last year, will again test the team's cars in next week's open tests at Barber Motorsports Park. The pair previously tested together at Sebring back in December, and Hinchcliffe tested again at Sebring for two days in January. Ahead of this latest test, both drivers sound like they expect to be racing for the team this season.
“We have a lot to accomplish at this test,” said Servia. “The season gets really busy quickly and it will be important to find the best car setup to ensure we can be competitive right away. I haven't raced in a year, so the more miles I can do the better.
“Every time I have sat in a Newman/Haas car has produced some of my best racing moments and I am sure this time will be no different. This year there are more cars and it will be more competitive than ever. It will be great for the fans and extremely challenging for all of us. I expect the tightest field we have ever seen in the IndyCar Series. After having a year off, I have never been so ready to work as hard to achieve our goals.”
Although it will be the first time for Hinchcliffe behind the wheel of an Indy car at BMP, he competed at the Birmingham road course in Indy Lights, finishing fifth.
“Barber is a terrific track,” said Hinchcliffe. “It is very fast and flowing and that creates a lot of challenges for the driver and the engineers. I think the IndyCar will be fantastic to drive there because these long, fast corners will really let me stretch the car's legs and see what it can do.
“I have to thank the team massively for the chance to test at Barber because this could be a very valuable few days for the race weekend here later in the year. It's also really exciting because the whole series will be there, so it will be a great chance for me to run with many cars on track and get a chance to compare our program against everyone else. It will be cool to share the track with some of the guys I've watched so closely for so many years.
“I have really ramped up my training as the season gets closer,” added Hinchcliffe on his preparation for the 2011 season. “Barber is a physical track, so I am making sure that fitness won't be an issue. On top of that I have been in touch with my engineer to discuss the run plan and make sure we maximize our opportunity. Testing is so limited these days that it's so important to run an efficient test program and accomplish as much as humanly possible!
If Hinchcliffe does get the nod at Newman/Haas, he will join a solid crop of rookie talent in IndyCars this year.
“The rookie class for 2011 is looking super-strong," agreed the Canadian. “With guys like J.R. [Hildebrand] and Charlie [Kimball] and now Bia [Ana Beatriz] getting a ride, it's shaping up to be a great race for Rookie of the Year. I am just working as hard as I can to make sure that come St. Pete I am in a Newman/Haas Racing car so we can add our name to that fight.”