The pairing couldn’t be better at Schmidt Peterson with Marotti Racing for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
The savvy veteran driver serves as the rock-solid anchor for the entry with the enthusiastic new ownership partner. Oriol Servia and Will Marotti aren’t exactly “The Odd Couple,” but their combination for the historic race this May does seem to provide a sense of balance for the No. 77 Honda entry.
Servia has been driving Indy cars since 2000, though mainly on a part-time or substitute basis the past few seasons. The 41-year-old Spaniard with an engineering degree has driven in seven previous Indianapolis 500s with a best showing of fourth place driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2012.
Marotti attended his first Indy 500 in 1969, is an admitted race fan who has dabbled in lower-level racing himself, and turned his attention to ownership involvement in the past year. Marotti reached an agreement with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson to enter the car at Indianapolis this year with larger long-term goals.
“I'm under no delusions here,” Marotti admitted. “What we bring now is passion, enthusiasm and some money. Our goal for this year was to kind of introduce the brand and get a footprint, really looking toward building for next year.
“So the team's got some goals and I've got some personal goals, and we see this as kind of the start of hopefully what will be many years to become a presence of Marotti Racing both in Indianapolis and other tracks, both in the paddock and hopefully within the larger INDYCAR community. So this is kind of a building year and, as I say, I'm under no delusions here. We're here to learn as much as we possibly can.”
Meanwhile, Servia believes he has learned plenty and is confident in his ability to compete on a one-off basis with the regulars of the Verizon IndyCar Series. His record on the hallowed 2.5-mile oval is remarkably consistent. His car has been running at the finish in five of the seven times he has driven the race and he has completed all 200 laps and not been below 11th place at the checkered flag each of those five times.
Servia believes he can tap into that well of experience and won’t be at a disadvantage to the full-season entries.
“You just have to have the seasons or the years that you've done that race, and you only learn by doing lots there, and I've been lucky to have been doing that race for almost a decade now,” said Servia, who was called in to fill in for Team Penske at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg when Will Power was sidelined with an inner-ear infection. “I've had, as I said, enough success that you learn from it, and I've been in many different teams, that you also take notes from how to approach each phase and each part of the race. I feel I'm definitely better than I've ever been.”
One of Servia’s teams was the legendary Newman/Haas Racing, for whom he finished second in the 2005 CART championship and won his only Indy car race at Montreal. Servia returned to Newman/Haas for the 2011 Verizon IndyCar Series season and teamed with then-rookie James Hinchcliffe, who will be his teammate again this month at Schmidt Peterson along with Mikhail Aleshin.
“I wasn't full-time racing the last season and a half, involved in management of a team in another series,” Servia said. “When I drove Justin Wilson's car in Sonoma (in the 2015 season finale), I realized how much I miss driving and how much out of shape I was. So since September, October last year, I've been really working out and getting ready to jump behind the wheel again. In St. Pete, actually, I felt way better than I felt in Sonoma and I've been training since. So I am ready.”