McLaren will enter the IndyCar Series full-time next season, forming a partnership with existing squad Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to run two cars in the championship.
The British firm’s racing arm has been investigating a full-time IndyCar programme since backing double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso’s entry in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 in a Honda-powered Andretti Autosport car.
Under the new partnership, the existing Schmidt Peterson team will be renamed Arrow McLaren Racing SP, and will switch from the Honda engines it has used this year to Chevrolet units.
McLaren said that the “infrastructure of Arrow SPM [will] underpin the team’s operations, while McLaren adds technical expertise, commercial experience and marketing strength”.
There is no word yet on drivers for next season. IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe and ex-Formula 1 racer Marcus Ericsson currently drive for the team. Alonso has previously expressed interest in an expanded IndyCar programme, although it is not known if he would be interested in a full-time campaign.
Team co-founders Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson will continue in their current roles, with McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran leading the McLaren involvement. A dedicated group from McLaren Racing will work on the programme.
De Ferran, who won back-to-back driver’s titles in the CART World Series in 2000 and 2001, said: “IndyCar is a natural fit for McLaren, given our legacy and determination to succeed at the top levels of international motorsport. Our ambition, over time, is to consistently compete for wins and championships.”
McLaren first ran a pair of cars in the Indianapolis 500 in 1970, and returned the following year when Peter Revson took pole in a McLaren M16. Mark Donohue won the race in 1972, driving a Penske-entered McLaren M16B.
McLaren then took victory in its own right in 1974 with Johnny Rutherford, who added another win in ’76.
During this time McLaren contested several full seasons in the USAC-run IndyCar championship, taking a total of 18 wins – all scored by Rutherford. The team’s last full season of IndyCar competition was in 1979.
Arrow Schmidt Peterson was founded in 2001 by former racing driver Sam Schmidt, shortly after he was paralysed in a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway. The team initially focused on the Indy Lights feeder series, with limited IndyCar outings, before moving up full-time in 2011.