It was announced two weeks ago that Lotus and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing reached an amicable resolution to end their agreement. The two entities had entered into a contract back in November for Lotus to be the team's engine supplier in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Given the circumstances of the regulatory requirement to supply multiple teams, the late timing of the Lotus' entry and the unanticipated difficulties caused by the change of ownership, Lotus made the decision to reduce the number of cars it runs. As a result, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing ran the Lotus for the last time in Brazil.
The two long-time IndyCar Series teams shared a technical partnership at the end of the 2011 season and, effective immediately, will expand that effort under the same roof at Panther's headquarters in Indianapolis.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing owner, Dennis Reinbold, is ready for the new alliance. "This is an unbelievable exciting prospect for us," 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 moving forward as a two-car team. We gave JR (Hildebrand) his start in IndyCar 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."
"We've wanted to operate as a two-car team for some time now, but the right opportunity has never arisen to allow us to accomplish that," Panther Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. "But 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. I know we're all looking forward to be working under the same roof and expanding upon what we've both built all these years in the IndyCar Series."
Feeling the same sentiment as Reinbold and Barnes is DRR co-owner Robbie Buhl. "All of us are unbelievably excited about this. We had a technical partnership with Panther last year and this effectively is taking that to the next level," Buhl explained. "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. From Oriol's standpoint, I know he's excited about working with both Hildebrand and the entire technical team that Panther has in place. The exchange of knowledge between two drivers of their caliber is only going to drive those guys and that's the fun part in challenging all of us to get better."
Servia, the former Champ Car World Series race winner, finished fourth in the IndyCar Series championship last season with Newman/Haas with 11 Top Ten finishes and runner-up finishes in New Hampshire and Baltimore. In 2005 with Newman/Haas, Servia finished runner-up in the championship, including a victory in Montréal and seven podium finishes while filling in for an injured Bruno Junqueira.
"This is the best of both worlds – 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 and we've never been able to do it for one reason or another," Servia explained. "I'm also looking forward to joining the Chevy family; they've been performing so well and shown an unbelievable commitment to win. Panther has such a great record at Indianapolis and being a two-car team will only make us all stronger. JR did such a great job there last year as a rookie and he's already doing so much better this year. He's a great kid. I really like him and I'm sure we're going to make a great team."
The union also puts Servia behind the wheel of a Chevrolet-powered IndyCar for the first time in his career. General Motors has powered all of Panther's 15 career IndyCar Series race victories and both its championships in 2001 and 2002.
"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," Chevrolet Racing IndyCar Program Manager Chris Berube said. "Oriol Servia will be a welcome addition to the Chevy IndyCar family and further expand the depth of talent we are fortunate to have campaigning the legendary Bowtie."
Hildebrand, the 24-year-old Californian, earned a runner-up finish and Rookie of the Year honors in last year's Indianapolis 500 and is especially excited about reuniting with his old team and being able to work with a teammate of Servia's caliber on a full-time basis. He made two starts for Dreyer & Reinbold in 2010 as a replacement for a then-injured Mike Conway before landing the full-time National Guard ride with Panther in 2011.
"I'm really excited to work alongside Oriol, he's one of those guys I'd put on my top three list of drivers I'd like to have as teammates," JR said. "Dreyer & Reinbold has some good people over there and after making my IndyCar debut with them I know how great an addition this will be to what we've got going at Panther. It's great to be joining forces with those guys and this is the next step towards being a contender at the front of the IndyCar field on a consistent basis. This is going to be nothing but a huge gain for all of us."
The two teammates also share a unique engineering background; Servia graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Hildebrand was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the same field before having his acceptance deferred to pursue his racing career.
Both Panther and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing head into the month of May on a strong note. Hildebrand earned a top-10 finish of seventh place in Brazil and Servia came from 23rd to finish 11th. The duo currently sits 7th and 16th in the championship standings respectively. For more updates on both teams, please visit www.dreyerreinboldracing.com and www.pantherracing.com.