Callum Ilott filled another piece of the Indy Car driver market puzzle after signing a multi-year deal with Juncos-Hollinger Racing.
The Brit, who was runner-up to Haas’s Mick Schumacher in the 2020 Formula 2 championship, arrived in the series in September 2021 after spending a year as a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo Racing, with the Brit managing a best finish of 22nd in his three starts with Juncos.
Shortly after the season-ending Grand Prix of Long Beach, Ilott and Juncos agreed on a full-time deal for 2022, and in spite of their small budget, the pairing has punched above their weight, managing a best finish of eighth in mid-May’s GMR Grand Prix as well as a slew of fast 12 appearances.
Despite rumours linking him to more affluent outfits, Ilott stayed loyal and signed a new deal with Juncos-Hollinger on the eve of the Gallagher Grand Prix weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Speaking with selected media, including Motorlat, shortly before the weekend’s events, Ilott explained why he chose to stay at Juncos and his hopes for the future.
“After seeing the results that we have been able to put forward at JHR for most of the year and the work that has been going on in the background by Ricardo and Brad to improve for the years beyond, it made sense to continue with the team and keep building. The potential that we have shown as a one-car team can only get better as we grow and expand this program.”
“I am super-happy to continue working with all the team members at JHR; we have created a great foundation together this season. The effort that everyone puts in and the working environment that they have are amazing. From where we started a year ago to where we are now, I am confident that we will find more success together.”
With a year of experience under his belt, Ilott is hoping for bigger and better things, setting himself and the team a target of reaching the podium or even a shock win.
“Look, from the speed aspect, I’ve already set a good benchmark, and I hope to already be starting from that kind of position for next season. I think as a team, I’ve got to put a pressure of on these guys to build the background as much as possible and see how we can improve. Like I said, we’re a bit limited on options of what we got to test at the moment. We need time. We need development on that side. That only comes in the breaks.”
“That’s where some more speed can come from. But also, I reckon next year being a bit more comfortable, not having to learn the tracks but taking my time to develop the car in the sessions, which probably helps in the FP1s. I reckon we should start where we finish off, at least. Yeah, I really hope we can be fighting at the top for podiums and wins. I think a podium is on the cards probably for the end of this year.”
Ilott also confirmed that he would receive some support from Ferrari; however, the Brit explained that the support from the Maranello-based outfit would be at a minimum.
“Obviously, from the Formula 1 side, when you join these academies, you normally sign a very long-term deal to get you to Formula 1. So, unfortunately, I’m kind of waiting in line, second in line, for whatever that was. I don’t see much of an opportunity at all changing anytime soon.”
“Otherwise, there is not much that I believe they can do. I may be surprised, someone may surprise me one day of some engineering help or something like that, or maybe I get a call to help out over the winter. I don’t know. It’s not really a situation like that. It’s more of a wait-and-see.”
The renewal of Ilott’s contract wasn’t the only other major announcement in the press conference, as the team announced that they would be considering adding a second car for 2023.
“Back in 2021, I took my time to choose our NTT IndyCar Series driver from a list of five drivers. Even when Callum was not on the radar for most of the teams here in the States, I knew he was the perfect fit for our team. Not only for his potential as a driver but his personality and his desire to win, which aligns with our team philosophy.”
“Today, almost a year later, I’m happy to confirm Callum’s continuation with the team for the long term. From the last three races during the 2021 season and the great results, we have had so far this year shows we were right in choosing him as our driver. Together with our new members of JHR, we have proven so much in a short time, which is incredible with the calibre of drivers and teams currently in the NTT IndyCar Series. This is just the beginning of a new era at JHR, and I’m looking forward to continuing our work with Callum and to the results we know we can receive together as a team.”
“Having two cars is a big advantage. But we know the difference. But we have to be right. Not just because you go to two cars, if it’s not right, it may be worse. That’s the key question here, how we’re going to do it? No question being only one-car team in the level of INDYCAR today, everybody can see (it) is a little bit disadvantage. But, like I said, we knew from day one going to be like that, so no complaints.”
“We are evaluating options as well as sponsors going forward. It’s a tough situation because we want to do it right. To do it right, we need a certain budget. The budget needs to come from the sponsors and sometimes from the driver as well. We are evaluating options at the moment. As of today, I don’t know. But the criteria will be kind of what we did last year when we chose Callum, kind of the same deal. We are going to apply the same kind of thinking behind so we can replicate what we did with Callum with the second driver.”