After competing in the NTT IndyCar Series last year, Zachary Claman will return to Indy Lights for the upcoming 2019 campaign with Belardi Auto Racing. The Canadian recently spoke to POPULAR OPEN WHEEL about the reasons for doing so, and more.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts going into the season?
ZACHARY CLAMAN: I’m really looking forward to being back in Indy Lights after a year in IndyCar. I have a lot more experience and I’m with a good team so I have a good shot at winning the championship.
POW: Why did you make the decision to go back to Indy Lights for 2019?
ZACHARY: Sponsorship is part of the reason. I think the Indy Lights program is a great program. They award a $1 million to the winner so that’s a big incentive for me. That would help towards securing a full-time ride so that’s a big part of the reason.
I’m still young, I still have a lot of time as a driver to develop, so Indy Lights is a good place to do that to get me ready to go back to IndyCar.
POW: What are your goals and expectations?
ZACHARY: My goal is to get better every race and my expectation is to win the championship. I mean, I’ve done three years of Lights and I was competitive the last time I raced in Lights; I was the second-highest points scorer in the second half of the season.
So I think the goal is to win the championship this year and get the scholarship to go back to IndyCar.
POW: What track are you most looking forward to?
ZACHARY: Road America. I got my only Indy Lights win there so it’s definitely Road America.
POW: What is one track that you wish that was on the schedule that currently isn’t?
ZACHARY: Probably Long Beach. Long Beach is a really cool track and I was lucky enough to drive it when I was in IndyCar and the fans are great there. So I’d have to pick one it’d be Long Beach.
POW: Looking back on the IndyCar season, what are your reflections?
ZACHARY: I learned a lot. I was really happy with the experience. I had a great teammate in (Sebastian) Bourdais. He taught me a lot being next to him and listening to how he debriefs and watching how he does things. That was really helpful as a driver to learn how someone with experience works.
I think it was really good for my development as a driver and I think I’m a lot more prepared for Lights then I was in the past after working with Sebastian Bourdais and a great engineer like Michael Cannon.
POW: What was the biggest surprise for you about IndyCar?
ZACHARY: I wouldn’t say level of competition, but more how close everyone is. Every single weekend, one or two tenths could be the difference between being 18th or in the top-10. At the Indy GP for example, Scott Dixon qualified 18th and finished third – and that’s the champion, so every race even the top guys could be at the back with how close the times were every weekend. It’s a really competitive series.
POW: What’s something that you picked up in IndyCar that you feel will help in going back to Indy Lights?
ZACHARY: Probably how competitive is and there’s not much room for error. You really have to do everything well in IndyCar. You have to get a perfect qualifying lap, you can’t make mistakes in the race, and every little thing matters.
I think that’s going to help me going back to Lights. I’ll be a bit more of a perfectionist.
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