Zachary Claman De Melo and Pietro Fittipaldi to share No. 19 IndyCar ride
A Fittipaldi will return to active IndyCar competition for the first time since the 1996 CART race at Michigan International Speedway as Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Dale Coyne completed his driver lineup for the 2018 season.
As expected, team owner Coyne will have two drivers split the duties in the No. 19 Honda: Brazil’s Pietro Fittipaldi and Canada’s Zach Claman De Melo.
Following a successful partnership with De Melo at the season-ending event in Sonoma in 2017, Paysafe has agreed to partner with Dale Coyne Racing to provide continued sponsorship to the young Canadian as its primary brand ambassador as well as extend its support to his teammate, Fittipaldi. Fittipaldi is the grandson of two-time Formula 1 Champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. The two drivers will take turns piloting the Paysafe-sponsored Honda throughout the campaign.
De Melo will be the first to race in the car in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 11 at the 1.8-mile temporary circuit and will return behind the wheel at Long Beach as well as Barber Motorsports Park.
With the support of his longtime sponsors and Escuderia Telmex, Fittipaldi will pilot the Paysafe car this season starting with the first two oval events, making his season debut at the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 7. He will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
“We are very pleased to have a leading global payments provider like Paysafe come onboard to the exciting sport of IndyCar racing as part of their North American expansion strategy,” said team owner Dale Coyne. “With Zach and Pietro’s ever-growing skills, we look forward to a competitive 2018 season for Paysafe.”
Emerson Fittipaldi’s last race came at Michigan International Speedway in July 1996. He hit the turn 2 wall of the opening lap and suffered a fractured neck, ending his racing career.
His grandson comes to the Verizon IndyCar Series after top honors in the World Series 3.5 V8 Championship. During that season, he broke the record for most pole positions with 10, a record that was previously tied between Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull F1 driver) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas F1 driver) who both scored eight poles in one season.
“This is a dream come true, even more so to be racing in the Indy 500, where my family already has a history of great results. I want to thank the entire team at Dale Coyne Racing, along with my longtime sponsors, Escuderia Telmex and Paysafe for this massive opportunity and important step in my career. I’m very excited and proud to be racing on a world stage like the Verizon IndyCar Series this year,” Pietro Fittipaldi said.
Fittipaldi will be completing his Rookie Orientation Program on Thursday, Feb. 8, at ISM Raceway and will then take part in the two-day open test session on Feb. 9 and 10. De Melo will return to the No. 19 car later this month for another test session at Sebring International Raceway, ahead of the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, next month.
On Monday, Coyne announced he was creating an additional team with new partners Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Sullivan that would be in charge of the No. 18 Honda driven by four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais.
Coyne will keep the No. 19 entry as Dale Coyne Racing and firmed up that operation with a new sponsor.