Today sees Scott McLaughlin turn his first IndyCar laps of 2021 with the Team Penske newcomer scheduled to test at Sebring International Raceway.
Two weeks after seven drivers took to the Florida circuit for the first pre-season test, including fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon, McLaughlin will join his Penske teammates for a full day of running.
Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power will all be present at the test. As will experienced engineers Jonathan Diuguid and Jon Bouslog, who will guide Mclaughlin through his rookie year.
Speaking ahead of the test, McLaughlin said he has been “itching” to get back into the driver’s seat after spending the past two months on the team’s simulator.
“I’ve been itching to get going again,” McLaughlin told IndyCar.com.
“Normally in the offseason, I try to get away from it all, but it has been difficult this year because I’ve been so excited for this opportunity.
“I came [to the U.S.], went straight to [St. Petersburg] for [last year’s season-ending race], had some testing at [Indianapolis Motor Speedway], had some testing at Barber [Motorsports Park] and then all of a sudden it stopped for me.”
McLaughlin added that he had spent the past few months getting his head around an IndyCar’s inner-mechanisms, which he says is entirely different from what he was used back in New Zealand and Australia.
“I’ve been trying to manipulate the IndyCar like we do in Australia,” he said.
“In the middle of the corner, you carry the brake to keep the front turning because with that big, heavy Supercar you need to keep the weight in the front to keep the tires turning.
“Here, you have got to trust the aerodynamics.
“It’s learning how much I can push the car, a trust between me and the machine.”
McLaughlin went on to talk about the Indy 500, saying it has been a childhood dream of his to race in the prestigious event ever since Dixon triumphed in 2008.
“You’d be surprised (how much) I’ve dreamt of racing that race since I was a little kid.
“When Scott Dixon won it in 2008, it was one thing I wanted to do.
“I’ve always been an IndyCar fan, but to see him do that and put New Zealand on the map with regards to American motor racing – it was very special, and I dream about it that race more than a lot of people think.
“I’ve got a lot to worry about and a lot to think about before then, but at the end of the day the ‘500’ and the Month of May: I’m looking forward to it.”
Today will also be the first opportunity McLaughlin and Team Penske will publicly reveal the PPG colour scheme that the New Zealander will use in ten events this year.
The first of those ten rounds will be the season opener in Alabama on April 18