Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) has signed 26-year-old Russian Mikhail Aleshin, who most recently competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, to drive its second entry for the 2014 IndyCar season.
Aleshin got his first seat time in an IndyCar on Nov. 18 when he tested with SPM at Sebring International Raceway.
“(Sebring) was my first test in an IndyCar and things were much different than what I’m used to inside the car,” Aleshin said. “In Europe there are different standards, but I like (the IndyCar) already, it’s really fun to drive. ”
The Moscow-native won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship in 2010 and tested the Lotus Renault F1 car as well as the Red Bull F1 car before setting his sights on the North American based IndyCar Series.
“The last two or three years I’ve been looking in this direction and at one point in the middle of the 2013 season I decided that I just needed to change something,” Aleshin reflected. “SMP Racing, my main sponsor, decided it would be a good idea to try something in the U.S. because there are no Russian drivers at this level, and considering the experience I have we thought it would all come together (in IndyCar).”
SPM team owner Sam Schmidt is looking forward to adding Aleshin alongside third-year IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud who collected two wins and finished third in the 2013 IndyCar Series Championship.
“We are extremely pleased to have Mikhail (Aleshin) partnered with Simon (Pagenaud) for the 2014 season,” Schmidt said. ”He is extremely mature and talented, but like so many up and coming drivers in the European system, there just weren’t enough opportunities for him to advance to F1. We have already found his driving style to be very similar to Simon’s and believe he can contribute immediately to the program, even as a rookie.”
After an incredibly successful 2013 season in IndyCar that saw the team collect its first two IndyCar wins with Simon Pagenaud, team owner Ric Peterson is eager to add even more talent to the SPM arsenal.
“I can’t wait to see how Mikhail’s success in competing against some of the biggest stars of the European racing scene will translate in IndyCar and with our team in particular,” Peterson said. “We proved in 2013 that we can challenge the biggest teams in our sport and the addition of this young, talented driver will only elevate us further.”
Team General Manager Rob Edwards commented on Aleshin’s ability to adapt during testing in Sebring, Fla.
“Mikhail did an excellent job at the test learning both a new car and a new track,” Edwards said. “He and Simon (Pagenaud) worked very well together and have very similar driving styles which should benefit the team. Mikhail formed an instant bond with (engineer) Allen McDonald and the entire team enjoyed working with him. It is always good to work with drivers who are focused on their work and who are quick in the car.”
Aleshin, who had previously never been to the United States, is pleased with his decision to join SPM for 2014.
“I chose Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for many reasons, but the most important thing was that I saw a team with great potential,” Aleshin said. “I understood that these people are really aiming for victory and it’s very important for them.
“Sometimes you come to a company of people and you start to believe in them and know they are professional. That’s how it is (with SPM). I really want to say thank you to the team. They have given me an awesome opportunity.”
About Schmidt Peterson Motorsports:
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) was established in 2001 and is owned by former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt and businessman Ric Peterson. Schmidt was paralyzed (quad) in 2000 after an accident during testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. SPM fields cars in the IZOD IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500, and Firestone Indy Lights. SPM is the most successful team in Firestone Indy Lights history with seven championships. In addition, SPM has qualified 14 cars in the Indianapolis 500 since 2001 and, in 2011, won the coveted Indy 500 pole. SPM also fields the #77 entry driven by Simon Pagenaud, the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year who finished third in the 2013 IndyCar Series Championship.