Courtesy Pather/DRR RacingEnlarge Photo
Two weeks ago Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (as well as Bryan Herta Autosport) announced they would be severing ties with Lotus, one of three engine suppliers to the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series. Dreyer & Reinbold (DRR) has entered the first four contests of the 16-race season as Lotus DRR but will now be known as Panther/DRR as they field Spaniard Oriol Servia's entry for the remainder of the season under a strategic alliance with Panther Racing, a two-time champion in the series.
The car will henceforth be a No. 22 Panther/DRR Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone entry, using Panther Racing's second Chevrolet engine lease and working in conjunction with the No. 4 National Guard team and driver JR Hildebrand. This partnership begins when practice opens for the 96th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We've wanted to operate as a two-car team for some time now," said John Barnes, Panther Racing managing partner and CEO, "but the right opportunity had never arisen to allow us to accomplish that goal. As soon as we had the opportunity to work with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Oriol Servia - a guy I consider one of the best all-around drivers in INDYCAR - this was a no-brainer for us.
"Dennis (Reinbold) and I have been friends for a long time and they've got a great group of guys on their team that we're very excited to be working with," Barnes continued. "I know we're all looking forward to working under the same roof and expanding upon what we've both built all these years in the IZOD IndyCar Series."
DRR and Panther Racing, two of the longest-running IndyCar Series teams, shared a technical partnership to the end of the 2011 season and, effective immediately will expand that effort under the same roof, at Panther's headquarters on the southwest side of Indianapolis.
“This is an unbelievably exciting prospect for us,” DRR co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. “The timing of aligning with Panther and putting this deal together is exceptional, especially knowing Panther’s history at the Indianapolis 500. We’re really looking forward to working together and taking advantage of the expertise that both teams share as we bring all our efforts together and move forward as a two-car team.
"We gave JR (Hildebrand) his start in Indy car racing, so we’ll always have a soft spot in our hearts for him and to pair JR alongside Oriol will allow them to feed off each other and continue to get better throughout the year. We’ve always enjoyed our associations with Panther in the past and we’re looking forward to a bright future together,” Reinbold stated.
Servia is a former Champ Car World Series race winner who finished fourth in the 2011 IndyCar Series championship driving with Newman/Haas Racing. He recorded 11 top-10 results as well as runner-up finishes on the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway oval and on the streets of Baltimore, MD. "This is the best of both worlds," Servia said. "I'm already with a great team, a great crew and great owners at Dreyer & Reinbold and affiliating with Panther is perfect because I've sat down with John Barnes many, many times to try and put a program together; we've never been able to do it for one reason or another," he explained.
Co-owner Robbie Buhl, who earned the DRR team a victory driving at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000 said, "All of us are unbelievably excited about this. We all feel very confident knowing that all the personalities involved can work so well together and take both our teams to the next level. The exchange of knowledge between two drivers of Oriol's and JR's caliber is only going to drive those guys and that's the fun part in challenging all of us to get better."
All of Panther's career 15 IZOD IndyCar Series victories and both of its championships, in 2001 and 2002 came with Chevrolet power. "We support the addition of a second Chevrolet IndyCar V-8-powered car to the Panther Racing team for the balance of the 2012 season," noted Chevrolet Racing program manager Chris Berube. "Oriol Servia will be a welcome addition to the Chevy Indy car family and further expand the depth of talent we are fortunate to have campaigning the legendary Bowtie."
Hildebrand and Servia share a unique engineering background: Servia graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Hildebrand was accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the same field before having this acceptance deferred to pursue his racing career. The Spaniard qualified on the front row at last year's Indianapolis 500 and his new teammate finished second in that race, the fourth consecutive runner-up finish for Panther Racing.
Both Panther Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing head into Indianapolis with strength as Hildebrand earned a top-10 result of seventh in Sao Paulo, Brazil while Servia came from 23rd to finish 11th in that race. The duo currently sits 7th and 16th, respectively, in the championship standings.