Wickens to fill in temporarily for Aleshin at Road America

Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Four months after testing an Indy car, Robert Wickens has gained an unexpected opportunity to run in one again – at least for a day.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) announced Thursday that Wickens, 28, will temporarily fill in for Mikhail Aleshin in the team’s No. 7 Honda for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.

Aleshin, who competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for SMP Racing last weekend, is currently beset by visa issues that have kept the first Russian Indy car driver from re-entering the United States. He is expected to return to the cockpit as soon as he can get to Road America.

SPM has released the following statement on the incident:

“Since competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing last weekend, Mikhail Aleshin, driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the Verizon IndyCar Series, has been unable to leave France due to immigration issues preventing him from returning to the United States. The executive team at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has been working diligently on Aleshin’s return to America to compete in this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix. However, at this time, the Russian driver will not arrive to Road America in time for any on-track sessions scheduled for Friday, June 23.

“The team have elected for Canadian Robert Wickens to pilot the No. 7 car until the immigration issue is resolved. The Mercedes AMG DTM driver will be available for questions in the Road America media center for 9:15 a.m. on Friday.

“No further comments about Aleshin’s immigration status will be given at this time. The team will send further communication when an update is available.”

The move reunites Wickens with James Hinchcliffe. The two Canadian drivers are former teammates in A1 Grand Prix, and also competed together in Formula BMW and Formula Atlantics. Wickens’ lone experience at Road America comes in his stint in Formula Atlantics, where he finished seventh (Hinchcliffe finished 14th).

Wickens has since moved on to British Formula 3, FIA Formula 2, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and, most recently, DTM. The Canadian participated in a ride-swap with Hinchcliffe at Sebring International Raceway in February, where he garnered his only Indy car experience to date. Hinchcliffe later piloted a DTM car at Autodromo Vallelunga Circuit.

This isn’t the first time this has been seen in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock.

A similar incident occurred with Simona de Silvestro in 2011. The Swiss shoe missed a race at Sonoma Raceway while resolving issues with her competition visa. Frenchman Simon Pagenaud filled in for her that weekend, scoring a 15th-place performance ahead of his eventual IndyCar breakthrough.

Whether a similar fate will befall Aleshin remains to the seen. The Russian currently sits 15th in the series standings, with a best result of sixth at Belle Isle Park.

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