Take a look at the teams that currently take part in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Only two are “original IRL” squads, ones that were formed during the IRL years before the CART/Champ Car teams began migrating over and before outright unification. Those two teams are Panther Racing and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing. (Technically, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports also falls into this category, but its current iteration comes in the form the old FAZZT outfit, formed in 2010, which Schmidt purchased ahead of last season).
Because of that connection, it may be unsurprising to some that the two have decided to form a technical alliance. Though, for now, they still operate as separate entities, they will collaborate and share information (similar to the relationship Bryan Herta Autosport had with Sam Schmidt Motorsports for last year’s Indy 500).
This “merger” of sorts brings together two of the series strongest “little guys. Each began 2012 as a one-car team, though both have shown their fair share of giant-killer attributes. Dreyer and Reinbold has been a stout contender in recent years, notably on the road and street circuits, while Panther Racing has managed to challenge the big boys of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti at the sharp end of the grid (though they have not won since 2005).
As Servia explained during a Tuesday teleconference, the combination has a lot of potential. “I see it more like sometimes you put one and one together, and it adds up to three, not two. I think that's what we're doing,” said the Spaniard. “I think it shows a lot the commitment from both Panther and Dreyer & Reinbold. We are here to win, to try to beat the Penskes, the Ganassis.”
What’s more, given that both had prepared to be two-car operations in the offseason (funding only prevented them from expanding), everything is in place to maintain a multi-car stable. “In a way, I think it couldn't be done in a better way because I know that both Dreyer (and Reinbold) and Panther in the off season were each preparing to be two car teams, both of them,” Servia added. “So we do have a lot of manpower. We do have a lot of resources, and now we're putting them all together, and that's only going to help.”
The drivers’ side of the equation also looks set. Servia is very enthusiastic about working with Hildebrand was very complimentary of the second-year driver. “He was Indy Lights champion, and he's shown many times his speed. Not only speed, I know he's a good guy. He's one of those people that you can trust, that you can work with, and I think we all you know, in this deal, I think we all see how it's going to be beneficial for all of us to work together well and hopefully go for a one two finish in the big race. I'm really excited and looking forward to it.”
For Hildebrand, things look even brighter. The young American has impressed in his short time in the Izod IndyCar Series, but has never had a full-time teammate who could lend a helping hand. In this way, Servia’s presence will immediately provide a big boost and provide valuable data to share.
One need only look to last year for evidence of this. Yes James Hinchcliffe is a supremely talented driver; there is no denying that. However, his transition was made much smoother was the presence of Servia with the Newman/Haas team they raced for in 2011. This proved a big factor in the team’s strong performance through the season.
Hildebrand will now have a chance to work with the same influence in 2012. Not only will he be getting a teammate, but in the addition of the Servia, he will be able to draw from one of the most intelligent and technically savvy drivers around. In fact, one could easily argue that Servia if one of the most underrated drivers of this generation.
Hildebrand understands all of this and believes having a “teammate” will be invaluable going forward. “I think the big thing for us is just get through the weekends a little more easily,” he explained in the same teleconference. “I mean, as kind of the one car operation, we showed last year that we could run up front with just one car, but it was hard to do week in and week out. It was hard to have that consistency. And when you weren't running well, to be able to dig yourself out of that hole quickly.”
Additionally, because his debut in IndyCars came with Dreyer and Reinbold back in 2010 (a two-race stint at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Infineon Raceway), there’s already a familiarity with each other going into the collaboration. “I'm really looking forward to it,” said Hildebrand. “I think, for me, it will help a lot as well. Obviously, having worked with Dreyer & Reinbold in the past, they gave me my debut in the IndyCar Series two years ago now, and being around Oriol for the last year, I think we can all just get down to business in a hurry and get started on the right foot.”
In all, the Panther/Dreyer and Reinbold partnership has all the potential the shake up the front of the grid, and Hildebrand and Servia could easily contend for race wins as a result.