Coyne: “We’ll have to run two drivers” in second IndyCar

Dale Coyne has sought to clarify the situation regarding who will partner Sebastien Bourdais in the second DCR-Honda car in 2018.

Coyne: “We’ll have to run two drivers” in second IndyCar
Pietro Fittipaldi, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Pietro Fittipaldi, Jaguar Racing
Zachary Claman DeMelo, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Dale Coyne, Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Following Ed Jones’ surprise departure for Chip Ganassi Racing last October, Coyne has been seeking someone “with talent and money,” to run in car #19 this season.

Favorite was Canada’s Zachary Claman De Melo, who won a race for Carlin in Indy Lights in 2017 and then made his IndyCar debut with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Sonoma finale.

However, following a successful test at Sebring on Thursday, reigning Formula 3.5 V8 champion Pietro Fittipaldi has also moved into the frame.

Meanwhile, the chances of a possible return by former IndyCar driver Jack Hawksworth are receding.

Asked if he’s expecting to run two drivers in the #19 entry this season, Coyne told Motorsport.com: “I think we’ll have to run two – at least two – in that car.

"I don’t see anyone coming up with a full budget, and I need to have deals done by the end of next week, because then we test at Sonoma [on February 5].

“I don’t know who’s testing there. It could be Zachary, could be Pietro, could be a third guy. I don’t know yet.”

Coyne did not want to give away the identity of this third ‘possible’ but said: “The chance of a Hawksworth deal… that’s gone away a little bit.

"No, this other driver would be someone who hasn’t been in IndyCar or Indy Lights, but does have open-wheel experience.”

Following two days of testing at Sebring – Claman de Melo on Wednesday, Fittipaldi on Thursday – Coyne said he had been impressed with both drivers.

“Zachary knew what he was doing in the car, he adapted well, understood the changes we were making, and we were very pleased.

“As far as lap times were concerned, it was very tight between the two of them – within two tenths – so I was happy with Pietro, too. He adapted well. I think the Formula 3.5 is a good car to prepare for IndyCar – about the same size and about the same downforce now that we’ve lost a bunch.

“He had to understand how the tire performance peaked – that’s the tricky bit with these cars, and it takes experience. But he took the whole thing very, very seriously – got there early, left late, studied data, watched onboard videos. And his feedback was very, very good.”

On the subject of whether he would lean toward using Claman De Melo for the oval races, given his experience in Indy Lights, Coyne replied, “Hmm… we’ll see. I mean, sure, he was good at Gateway and Iowa in Lights, so that’s a good thing.

"But there’s a couple of other factors to decide which driver we put in for which events – sponsors that will want certain races, that kind of thing. But you know, it’s still a work in progress.”

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