Foyt: Calderon “on our list of potential drivers” for 2022

Larry Foyt says that Tatiana Calderon is among several potential candidates for an AJ Foyt Racing ride in 2022, following an “impressive” first test with the team at Mid-Ohio.

Two days after the 10th round of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series on the Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course, AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet gave 28-year-old Calderon her first opportunity to drive an IndyCar. Despite the Mid-Ohio circuit also being new to her – Star Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) didn’t race on the challenging 2.238-mile track when she raced in that championship back in 2010 and ’11 – Calderon regularly lapped in the 69sec bracket and got down to a high 68sec lap toward the end of the day.

Foyt, president of AJ Foyt Racing, told Motorsport.com: “I honestly didn’t know what to expect, although I know Tatiana’s driven a lot of things – open-wheel and sportscars – and I have plenty of friends and contacts in Europe who told me she’s capable. But she hasn’t had a lot of full-season stuff recently.

“So what was impressive is that she just jumped right in and got on it. She’s driven a lot of quick cars, and cars with quite a lot of downforce, but an Indy car was probably heavier through the steering than anything she’d driven before.

“So, especially with some of the high-G corners at Mid-Ohio, I thought it would take her a little longer to get going but in fact she just kept improving every time out. She was really smart about it.

“I went to a bunch of corners to watch, and her car control was good but she also very smooth with the steering inputs. And at the end of the day, she got down to a time that would have put her faster than five or six cars in first practice last race weekend.

“Now obviously, she was the only one testing and we don’t really know where the track was at in terms of grip level – especially with a track that evolves a lot.

“But I think for a first day of not knowing the track, not knowing the car, she ran competitive times.”

The test was made possible through her sponsor ROKiT, which also sponsors the #14 AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet in which Sebastien Bourdais has been competing this year. But Foyt denied that this gave an indication of what situation the team may find itself in for 2022.

“I would say she’s certainly on our list of potential drivers,” he said. “I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves – we’ve got lots of sponsor meetings coming up. But the test was something we wanted to do, it held a lot of interest for us and now, after an impressive showing, it’s even more interesting.

“We need to get with the sponsors, get with Tatiana herself, find out what their plans are moving forward and how they might work with our plans.

We’re enjoying working with Seb. Obviously it’s frustrating that we’ve had the pace at a lot of tracks but haven’t put the whole weekend together. Same way a lot of teams feel right now, right?

“But 2022… I don’t want to go into that because the situation is open – and I mean really open – at the moment. We’ve got meetings with ROKiT soon. There are different options on the table. There are IndyCar drivers with a lot of experience who are becoming available this year.”

Calderon herself seemed similarly pleased with the test which she said was “very, very exciting because I started my career in the U.S. 10 years ago, and I’ve followed IndyCar for many years.”

She continued: “I’m really happy with my performance as well – improving every time and getting more and more comfortable with everybody. Not much more I could ask. I’m very grateful to the AJ Foyt team, to JR Hildebrand [there to assist and advise], and to ROKiT. That is my sponsor in Super Formula, but I’ve missed a few races due to the travel restrictions, so I’m very thankful to ROKiT because IndyCar was one of the few types of single-seaters that I had not driven before. It was an opportunity I could not refuse.”

Regarding the IndyCar itself in which she turned 87 laps, Calderon said, “I liked the car very much. It had a good amount of power, and the brakes were very impressive – I would say, similar to Formula 1 in braking capacity.

“All cars have their certain qualities that are difficult to handle, so I’m very lucky as the IndyCar had good power and less downforce which is the direction that Formula 1 is going in.”

Calderon said that learning a new car and a new track simultaneously had been an interesting challenge.

“I had not raced Mid-Ohio before and the test was sort-of last-minute, so I had to do iRacing at home – no time to do anything else!” she said. “It’s a tricky track to start out on, so that was another reason I was pleased with my performance.

“During the race, I went to watch in all the spots around the track, and as I was watching, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?! This is gonna be tough…’ But once I got there, in the cockpit, it feels a lot less scary.

“I think the big thing I need to make the next step if I get a second day would be the high speed turns – Turns 1 and 11 – where you need the most confidence, and to know the limit of the car. They are the full commitment kind of corners.

“But all the rest, I felt good about. And now Mid-Ohio is definitely one of my favorite tracks in the U.S.! I loved all the elevation changes – proper old-school, a lot of fun.

“Also I think it’s good for me to start with one of the hardest tracks – if I did OK there for my first day, then it’s a good sign for other tracks.”

While Japan still requires two weeks of quarantine, Calderon has temporarily halted her Super Formula campaign, focusing instead on competing for Richard Mille Racing in WEC’s LMP2 class. But for 2022, she has not yet decided in which direction she wants to go.

“As a driver you want as many options as you can have to choose from,” she said. “That’s a privilege. But it’s still early days to decide about 2022.

“But I’m very pleased that the test went really well and I would consider if the team were interested in having me in the car. It’s a great option to have.”

Calderon is also interested in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having competed in the Rolex 24 Hours for the Grasser Racing Team [GTD-class Lamborghini Huracan] in 2020.

“I had such a great time in Daytona last year, and I love racing in the U.S. so I would be open to this. As a driver you want to be racing every weekend, and obviously endurance racing is a great category to be in with all the manufacturers involved, and combined programs between IMSA and WEC… Yeah, it’s very interesting.

“So I’m hoping to open as many doors as I can.”

Tatiana Calderón, A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Tatiana Calderón, A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Photo by: Yesid Pamplona.

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