JR Hildebrand, Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato all bag seats for 2017 as the IndyCar silly season hots up.
Hildebrand joins Ed Carpenter Racing
JR Hildebrand has secured the vacant seat alongside Ed Carpenter at his eponymous team. The American – who as a rookie spectacularly lost the Indy 500 in 2011 on the final lap – will replace Josef Newgarden.
The move closes down one of the more coveted seats available for 2017. Carpenter is yet to confirm who will replace him on street and road course events next year but expect Spencer Pigot to retain his position with the team.
Hildebrand: worth a second chance?
Hildebrand has much to prove upon his full-time return to IndyCar. Despite occasional strong performances in 2011 and 2012, plus one-offs at Indianapolis, Hildebrand is yet to prove his value at the top of American open wheel racing.
With several very talented drivers on the market for 2017, it was a bold decision to pick him. IndyCar is fit to burst with current and upcoming talent, and combined with the stellar performances from predecessor Newgarden, Hildebrand will not be afforded a long period to settle back in to IndyCar.
Montoya sticks with Team Penske for Indy
The decision of Juan Pablo Montoya to partner with Team Penske for a one-off Indy 500 entry is both good and bad. The fiery Colombian will not be lost to the IndyCar series in 2017 but a one-off ride is disappointing. Both in terms of the 2-time Indy 500 winner’s talent and his continued fan appeal.
Penske is closing in on a deal to run an LMP-2 prototype sports programme in 2017. The unnamed manufacturer-supported programme may be the key attraction for Montoya in remaining with Penske.
Montoya has previously tested an LMP-1 Porsche prototype and has ambitions to take on and win the Le Mans 24 Hours. However Audi’s decision to withdraw from the World Endurance Championship this year has left the sportscar driver market loaded with talented, free-agent drivers.
Sato follows Honda to Andretti
Following confirmation of AJ Foyt Racing’s decision to switch to Chevrolet power for 2017, Honda favourite Takuma Sato has joined Andretti Autosport.
The Japanese will partner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti in 2017. Leaving at least one vacancy at AJ Foyt Racing to be filled and now question marks over whether Carlos Munoz will be retained by Andretti for the 2017 IndyCar season.