Oriol Servia always seems to land a ride for the Indianapolis 500, but not much else recently in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
So the Spaniard has set his mind to putting together his own fulltime ride for 2017. Servia estimated recently he’s more than halfway toward securing the necessary funding.
“I live in Los Angeles and I find it very similar to the movie industry,” said Servia, 42, whose last full season was in 2012 with Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. “You need a producer who hires a director and hires the talent and finds the money to produce it and hopefully makes money at the end of the day. In a racing program, you need talent, which is the guys working their asses off; you need someone paying, which is the sponsor, which also hopes to make money by selling more of their product either through the exposure or the deals put together. I like being there in the middle, I really do.”
Servia’s next start will be his 200th in an Indy car. His lone victory at Montreal in 2005 came while driving in Champ Car for Newman/Haas Racing, the same season he finished a career-best second in the points substituting for the injured Bruno Junqueira. Since 2008, he’s driven for eight Verizon IndyCar Series teams. In 74 starts the past nine seasons, he has a pair of runner-up finishes while with Newman/Haas in 2011. His fourth place in the points that year represents his best Verizon IndyCar Series season standing.
He’s given himself until the end of this calendar year to put the 2017 deal together.
“I never really stopped driving,” he said. “I still do the Indy 500 every year and, for whatever reason, one or two other races a year. Every time I step in, I still get it done and still enjoy it more than ever. And I’ve always thought or said I’ll stop Indy cars the day that I’m either tired of trying to put the deals together or the day I show up at every race and I get my ass kicked. Even if it’s (by) just a couple tenths (of a second) but every weekend, which tells me I’ve lost that edge, then I’ll do something else.”
Servia has made eight Indy 500 starts in nine years. He finished 12th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Marotti Racing in May’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. His best run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was fourth in 2012 for Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
His most recent fill-in ride was for Team Penske’s Will Power (inner-ear infection) in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where Servia finished 18th in March. He subbed for the late Justin Wilson in last year’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and finished 12th in an Andretti Autosport car, in an emotional effort the week after his friend’s death.
Servia said he still draws interest from teams within the paddock.
“I couldn’t be happier with how much people are willing to get a deal together for me. That says a lot,” he said. “It helps me sleep better when I know there are so many people that truly appreciate me trying to get a deal together, from team owners to sponsors. I’m over 50 percent, but still a fair amount needs to be created and put together. I couldn’t be happier from INDYCAR to the manufacturers involved to everyone.”
While often described as the most challenging aspect of racing, when a driver must bring sponsorship to the table to secure a seat, Servia insists he doesn’t see it that way.
“Actually, I don’t think it’s the tough part of racing. It’s the unknown part of racing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s tough. I love it. I don’t like selling myself, but I like putting deals together or trying to understand what makes sense for a potential sponsor. A sponsor nowadays needs more than just pure exposure. It’s very scrutinized nowadays. You need to bring them exposure, which are the eyeballs that will watch the race and the social media behind it, but you also need to bring them a business deal that makes sense.
“You’re coming to INDYCAR, you’re going to be sponsoring these races in these markets which allows you to do these initiatives, this activation that will sell more of your product or will put you together with another company that will sell your product. I kind of like doing that. It’s not easy. It’s not something I ever thought I would be spending as much time on as I do, but you’re forced to in racing.”
Servia is an entertaining personality. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering. In past years, he’s earned attention for creative helmet designs, many inspired by surrealist and fellow Spaniard Salvador Dali. What he assures potential business partners is his desire to race.
“In INDYCAR, you need that edge. I’m even more hungry than ever,” Servia said. “I still want to have my proper shot at winning the Indy 500 and the championship. I’ve been lucky, that maybe because I haven’t had that shot in a while, I’m still hungry and every time I step in I get the job done. I want it. I really do.”