Schmidt Peterson Motorsports could become IndyCar’s Maple Leaf Mafia if its rumored plans for 2018 come to fruition.Three-year team veteran James Hinchcliffe is believed to have signed a multi-year extension to remain in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda, where he won a race on his SPM debut in 2015 at NOLA and again this year at Long Beach.
If the second part of the deal is confirmed, the Indianapolis-based program would double up on its Canadian driver roster by pairing Hinchcliffe with countryman Robert Wickens (below), who subbed for former SPM driver Mikhail Aleshin during Friday practice at Road America, in the sister No. 7 Honda.
After three seasons of limited results delivered by teammates James Jakes (2015) and Aleshin (2016-’17), Hinchcliffe is known to have made the acquisition of Wickens a top priority during contract negotiations.
Prior to his switch to the DTM series with Mercedes in 2012, Wickens amassed eight years of open-wheel experience in North America and Europe where the highlights included placing third in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic series, second in the 2008 FIA Formula 2 championship, and first in the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, where he came out on top of Jean-Eric Vergne, Alexander Rossi, Daniel Ricciardo, and Brendon Hartley to earn the title.
Compounding the possible pro-Canadian driver roster with Hinchcliffe and Wickens, the team is co-owned by Canadian transportation magnate Ric Peterson, and ex-Ganassi race engineer Todd Malloy – another Canadian – is expected to join the team and fill the void left by Allen McDonald, who departed in September. Altogether, the Verizon IndyCar Series would have its first proper representation from the Great White North within a single team since the merger with Champ Car in 2008.
To announce his return, and possibly the formation of a Super Canadian combo, Hinchcliffe is said to have rented a kart track in Toronto, where he and Wickens raced as youngsters, to present SPM’s two-car lineup next week.