Verizon IndyCar Series

VICS: Davide Valsecchi, Stefano Coletti and Rodolfo Gonzalez to Audition for SPM Ride

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INDIANAPOLIS — Schmidt Peterson Motorsports General Manager Rob Edwards has confirmed that the team will have two full-time entries in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

SPM signed James Hinchcliffe earlier in the off-season to take over the No. 77 car previously piloted by Simon Pagenaud as Pagenaud heads off to Team Penske. This past year, Hinchcliffe posted four top-five finishes, including a season-best third at Mid-Ohio, in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data car for Andretti Autosport. SPM also announced that Allen McDonald will be Hinchcliffe’s race engineer.

SPM is taking their time in announcing the second driver, as Edwards is “trying to make sure” that they’re “the best two-car team that” they can be.

As they search through the possible candidates, GP2 Davide Valsecchi, Stefano Coletti and Rodolfo Gonzalez will audition for the ride as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series test at Sebring International Raceway in Florida on December 16th and 17th.

“There is a lot of competition and so the ability of a two-car team to compete and perhaps the advantage of a two-car team is if you find the right two drivers and have the right chemistry between those drivers then you can work at maximizing that opportunity,” Edwards said. “Running through some different drivers at Sebring is our opportunity to look at performance, which is always important, but from a chemistry point of view how the drivers interact with the team and interact with James and be able to form some opinions.”

Valsecchi (pictured top) was the 2012 Gp2 Champion and spent the 2013 season as the test driver for the Lotus F1 team.

“I’m very focused on having the best test possible to show the qualities I have as a driver,” the 27-year-old said. “I hope to do a good job because I know this is a top-level team.

“The Verizon IndyCar Series seems to have the best competition of all driving series worldwide, so I would love the opportunity to compete here. There are always so many overtakes in their races, which is what makes racing fun. I can’t wait to see what it feels like to be in one of these cars.”

Coletti finished sixth in the Gp2 Championship Standings last season with two victories.

“It’s been a long time that I’ve wanted to come to the States for racing. In 2008, I packed my bags and I almost came here. In the end it did not work out because my (Formula 3 Euro Series) contract was signed, and then my management preferred me to stay in Europe a bit longer,” Coletti said. “I was always a dream to drive these big cars and see how they handle. I’m excited to be testing.

“I think the racing in IndyCar is amazing and that’s why I’ve always wanted to come here. I’ve always watched IndyCar races on TV and it’s a great show. When you look at the Indy 500, it’s something that you just don’t experience in Europe.”

Gonzalez has spent the past two years as a test driver for Marusia F1. The 28-year-old tested with SPM at Homestead-Miami Speedway in September, alongside Rocky Moran Jr. and 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Champion Gabby Chaves.

SPM had a successful season in 2014 with Pagenaud finishing fifth in points after scoring two wins and three podiums last season. Mikhail Aleshin ran the team’s second entry, scoring a season-high second place finish on the streets of Houston en route to finishing 16th in points.

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About Ashley McCubbin

Ashley McCubbin serves as a Contibuting Writer in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series department, and can be followed on Twitter at @ladybug388. A native of Bradford, Ontario, Canada, McCubbin spends a majority of her weekends at local short tracks.

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