Keith Wiggins (LEFT), team owner of HVM Racing, has declared his intention to enter a prototype in the American Le Mans Series next year. The HVM team, which took Simona de Silvestro (BELOW) to second in the IZOD IndyCar Series rookie standings this year, is currently considering options on both the engine and driver front, but is likely to run a Lola chassis.
“Going for Lola looks a pretty easy decision at this stage,” said Wiggins, “not just because of my connections there, but because it's a good platform. Engine-wise, we're hoping to form a relationship with someone which I can't go into details of right now, but on the other hand, we're not closing the door to any options at this stage. Through those chassis and engine talks, we've also been in contact with several drivers, so right now we've got several ideas on the table. Obviously plans are very fluid right up until all the money comes together, but we're confident we will make this happen.”
Wiggins has a long history with Lola, stretching back to 1997, when he convinced Irish multi-millionaire Martin Birrane to buy the marque when it went into receivership. Wiggins, after his 12 years as Pacific Racing's team owner, became president of Lola Cars, then reintroduced the brand to CART and sold the B98/10 prototypes in the fledgling American Le Mans Series as well as introducing the company's first LMP2 chassis to the market. He then took over the Bettenhausen team following Tony Bettenhausen Jr.'s fatal plane crash. Since then, under the guise of Herdez Competition, CTE-HVM Racing, Minardi Team USA and most recently HVM Racing, Wiggins has remained at the helm of a team which took Robert Doornbos to two wins and third place in the 2007 Champ Car World Series.
“I have no intention of leaving IndyCars,” Wiggins stated. “The U.S. open-wheel scene will always be a passion of mine. It's just that ALMS is another very attractive program out there, and I think it makes sense for our team not to have all its eggs in one basket. I've always been someone who enjoyed technology and, to my mind, racing has always been about development, advancements, being cutting edge and being relevant. The ALMS is a natural fit for that. There's a lot of manufacturer interest, the cars are technically attractive with new technology, the TV package is strong and I just think the series has a good thing going.”
Although running a GT-class operation for a manufacturer is something he'd consider, Wiggins admitted, “For me, the prototypes hold the most allure. That's not just because they're up at the front of the field to get you the most TV exposure. I believe the way the series is governing the LMP category is good, capping the price of the car, capping the price of the engine, making sure the engines are within a certain percentage of each other in terms of power, and so on. It's a good, balanced formula. The ALMS are saying that teams should have one professional driver and one amateur. Well, obviously that's loose and there's always some interpretation, and so that does gives opportunity for a variety of drivers.”
Wiggins stated that he believes the next three months are going to be crucial to forming the ALMS arm of HVM Racing. “Obviously, we've got the structure, we've got the necessary equipment and so we can hold the door open for a while to help us make the best possible choices. Then we'll have to pull the trigger to make sure we're ready in time for the Sebring 12 Hours [next March].”
Asked whether he would consider joining forces with an already existing ALMS squad, Wiggins said it was “a vague possibility, but in those circumstances, both parties have to bring something to the table. I am flexible but I've found most team owners are team owners because they like being the boss.”