Arrow to Chevy upsets Hinchcliffe’s Honda deal


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McLaren is partnering with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for a full-time return to IndyCar competition next season that includes a switch from Honda to Chevrolet, raising questions about Honda-sponsored Arrow driver James Hinchcliffe.

The new two-car team will be renamed Arrow McLaren Racing SP and rely on Arrow SPM’s current infrastructure. Arrow currently fields cars for Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson, but Hinchcliffe is a longtime Honda ambassador and star of ads for the automaker in North America.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said Ericsson is under a one-year contract that will be reviewed but answered “yes” when asked if Hinchcliffe is expected to drive for the team next year.

“Hinch is under contract and we think he’s an excellent racing driver who has won lots of races and he does have big ties to Honda,” Brown said. “From our point of view, we are very happy to continue to have Hinch, and that’s kind of the state of play.”

Hinchcliffe also tweeted about Friday’s announcement, saying it is a “dream come true” to drive for a McLaren team and adding that his relationship with Honda will be addressed when the “time is right.”

Hinchcliffe drove for Chevrolet in 2012 and 2013 when he was part of the Andretti Autosport lineup.

All seven of Schmidt’s IndyCar victories were powered by Honda, which helped the team win two Indianapolis 500 poles. But McLaren had an ugly split in Formula One with Honda, and the engine maker is not willing to work with the team at this point.

Honda Performance Development said in a statement Friday “although we regret that this partnership will be coming to an end … HPD has the utmost confidence in the strength and commitment of its remaining partner teams.”

Arrow Electronics will remain the team’s title partner, and team co-founders Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson will continue in their current leadership roles. Gil de Ferran, the sporting director for McLaren Racing, will lead the IndyCar effort for McLaren independently from the Formula One effort.

“I’m extremely proud of the team that Ric and I have built and that a legendary brand like McLaren Racing has decided to partner with us,” Schmidt said. “Arrow is a tremendous partner which has been integral to our growth as a team since 2015 and to the creation of this new partnership. The combined technical resources and commercial opportunities both McLaren and Arrow bring to the table provide a winning combination.”

McLaren, which will be responsible for technical expertise, commercial experience and marketing on the new team, is coming off a spectacular embarrassment in which it failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May with celebrated two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

The team partnered with Andretti Autosport in 2017 on an Indy 500 effort for Alonso but took the next season off. Its return to Indy last year was as a standalone team, but McLaren was ill-prepared and Alonso missed the race.

Alonso does not appear to be interested in a full-time IndyCar ride in 2020, but Brown has indicated the new team will field a third car for the Indianapolis 500. Alonso would likely have an option to drive that entry.

“IndyCar has been part of McLaren since our early years of racing, and the series today provides not only a commercial platform to continue to grow our brand in North America but competition with some of the best teams in international motorsport,” Brown said. “We come to IndyCar in full respect of the sport, our competitors, the fans and the task ahead.

“At our core, we at McLaren are racers, and where there’s competition that puts us to the test, we will race.”

Brown said Alonso will meet with McLaren at the Italian Grand Prix next month and that the Indy 500 will be on the agenda.

The new team will honor SPM’s promise to Robert Wickens to have a car for him should he return to IndyCar racing. Wickens suffered a spinal injury last August in a crash at Pocono Raceway, and Schmidt, a paraplegic, said he would have a seat for Wickens if he is medically cleared to drive. Brown said that remains unchanged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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