Oriol Servia earned third grid spot at the 2011 Indy 500 - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
It's another one of those horribly kept "secrets" - Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (DRR) signed Catalan driver Oriol Servia as a full-time driver for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Servia, 37, had a breakout year in 2011, driving for Newman/Haas Racing, which elected to step away from the series for the coming season. He finished fourth in the overall IZOD IndyCar Series standings, qualifying third for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. Along the way Servia earned eleven top-10 results and was one of three drivers running at the finish of every race. He led all drivers in laps completed during the season (2103 of 2011) and was the sole driver to finish in the top-10 in the first five contests of the year.
This type of steady, competitive driving coupled with an outstanding ability to test will be important for DRR, who are one of four factory Lotus Racing teams this year. "With a new engine, new chassis and a revamped engineering department, we believe it's crucial to have a highly talented veteran driver to be able to develop these new components," said Dennis Reinbold, team co-owner.
"Oriol has always been a smart driver and has always put himself and his team in a position to win races. We are going to have to be well prepared to take advantage of his abilities - and we look forward to the challenge," Reinbold added.
The 2011 wasn't really a "breakout" season for Servia, who has a succession of achievements in American open wheel racing. The 1999 Firestone Indy Lights champion (second in five races with five pole positions), Servia was the runner-up in the 2005 Champ Car World Series and gave Dale Coyne Racing its first podium finish since 1996 when he took third place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2004, also in the Champ cars.
"I couldn't be more excited, for many reasons," Servia stated. "DRR is a team that I raced against sine 2008 and they've always shown to be very professional at the race track. Although I knew the owners, I didn't know them very well, to be honest.
"Before signing with the team, like everybody else, I did my research and I couldn't find one individual that didn't speak highly of Dennis or Robbie (Buhl, co-owner), which gave me a lot of confidence," he continued. "I went to the team's sponsor summit last week and met all of their partners that they have been involved with for many, many years, which was another clear sign that they are good people."
Servia's excitement about his new position extends to the pre-season testing he'll about to begin in anticipation of the season's first race on the streets of St Petersburg, scheduled the final weekend of March. "I'm at the best point in my career and it was very important to partner with the right team," the Catalan said. "When I visited the DRR facility in Indianapolis, I couldn't have been more impressed.
"We are starting with a new engine and chassis, and I have confidence in Lotus and our ability to develop a quality product in 2012. When you have everyone pulling in the same direction like we are now, that is when we can accomplish our goals," Servia accentuated.
Former racer and team co-owner Robbie Buhl shares Servia's enthusiasm for the coming season's competition with the DRR Lotus/Dallara/Firestone entry. "I think that Oriol can be a real asset to us with the development of our partnership with Lotus and the DW12 [chassis]. His experience throughout his career will be pivotal in how we develop the new car and new motor. He had a fantastic season last year with Newman/Haas and we are excited to have him as part of our team going forward."
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is continuing to push forward on a second full-time entry for the 2012 INDYCAR campaign. The team expects to complete its roster within the next few weeks.