Meyer Shank Racing isn’t one of the current series heavyweights, but with his experience with the team and hybrid racing in GTP, and the expertise of a former rival-turned-team-mate, the Briton is eager to get going
The path to the IndyCar Series for Blomqvist is not so much about the road less traveled, but rather one paved in perseverance: Born in Britain, raised in New Zealand, he’s built up a diverse background that features a promising junior formula career that veered into DTM and Formula E, among others, before becoming a force in the IMSA SportsCar Championship.
Following an introductory three races in North America’s premier open-wheel championship last year, he now finds himself back in single-seaters and bracing for a full-time rookie campaign, driving the Honda-powered No. 66 entry for Meyer Shank Racing.
“This is the first time in a while where I’ve got this anxious energy about getting started because it’s so new,” enthuses the 30-year-old. “Obviously, I’ve been doing something so familiar for the past eight, nine years, and jumping across to IndyCar is so different. But I’m really excited to get going. It’s a completely new challenge. Although it is, I would say, a carry-on, a natural progression from my junior career I kind of sidestepped since 2015.”
Blomqvist’s year has already started pretty well, with a close second in the Daytona 24 Hours in Action Express Racing’s Cadillac, following wins at the same event with MSR Acuras in 2022 and 2023. But his single-seater return is now the focus.
“I’m really excited to just get rolling again, and it’ll be nice to get out in an IndyCar,” adds the son of 1984 World Rally champion Stig. “I haven’t driven since basically the race in Laguna Seca [in September]. So, thank goodness I did get some of that mileage under my belt the back end of last season, which has mentally prepared me for some of the challenges that may lie ahead. I’m just keen to get out on track at the end of the month, which is going to be good, going to be fun.
“There’s going to be a lot going on behind the scenes – it definitely opened my eyes at the back end of last year getting those events under my belt and seeing the areas that I personally need to work on. Now I’ve got a whole season to work at it, so I’m keen to get things going.”
Blomqvist made his IndyCar debut last season deputizing for Pagenaud, and will take over the seat full-time in 2024
Photo by: IndyCar Series
After Blomqvist tested an IndyCar for MSR in October of 2022, there was already the notion that it was a matter of when not if he would be part of the championship. That concept accelerated after Simon Pagenaud‘s vicious practice crash at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last July, in which the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner somersaulted several times before settling in a plume of dust in the gravel trap.
The Frenchman was forced out for the remainder of the season, which prompted MSR to put Blomqvist in for selected rounds. The debut on the streets of Toronto, regarded as one of the toughest circuits on the schedule due to its unforgiving and tight 11-turn, 1,786-mile layout, provided the best start to date in 20th.
The best finish was a 24th at Portland International Raceway. But the best performance was undoubtedly in the season finale at Laguna Seca, where Blomqvist managed to dart through the field in an incident-filled race and break into the top 10, running as high as sixth, before falling into the clutches of chaos after 61 of 95 laps.
“Tom can handle going fast and managing all the controls that we have, and that’s going to be a new element to IndyCar. Tom has that brain capacity” Michael Shank
“It helps tremendously, more so in just preparing for the way the event runs,” says Blomqvist of his 2023 experience. “Whether that be the structure of the practice session, the qualifying session, or the little intricacies that people from the outside maybe don’t understand that helps a driver in getting the most out of a weekend.
“Because when you’re so new to that, your brain is constantly under stress when you’re doing them for the first time. You feel like you’re at 100mph in every area. So, when you’ve done that, you know and your body is prepared for it, your mind is prepared for it. It’s so much easier.”
It won’t be a normal year by any stretch, either: Blomqvist will also have to adapt to the incoming hybrid engine, which is expected to be on the grid sometime after the 108th running of the Indy 500 on May 26.
Earlier this off-season, MSR co-owner Mike Shank shared that IndyCar’s move to a hybrid era is one of the motivations for bringing over Blomqvist, who adjusted accordingly in IMSA’s adaptation of hybrid power in 2023 with LMDh machines in the GTP class. Although Shank’s IMSA program has since ceased operations following the conclusion of last year despite finishing third in the championship with three wins – including his controversial Daytona 24 Hours success – there is a belief that Blomqvist’s experience should add value despite a lack of time in IndyCar.
Experience with hybrid Acura in IMSA convinced Shank that Blomqvist had capacity to shine in IndyCar
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
“In my opinion, there are many, many fast racing drivers out there and some of those guys require ten-tenths of their brain power just to put in that fast lap,” says Shank. “The truly great drivers have another gear or another step that they can manage more inputs. GTP is a great example of that. Tom can handle going fast and managing all the controls that we have, and that’s going to be a new element to IndyCar. Tom has that brain capacity.
“Many drivers, when you ask them to start managing the chassis with all the controls we have, it gets all messed up. “Tom has the capacity to manage more systems and that’s another reason I chose him, because I think we’ll have a bit more of that.”
And in many ways, keeping up with the tools inside an IndyCar is easier than GTP. Blomqvist believes his ability to do this stems from that diverse background: “Even jumping in the GTP, it was easy for me because I was used to a much more complex system in terms of Formula E, and having experience there prepared me for what to expect, how to get the most out of some of the systems.
“To be honest, the IndyCar system is even more simple in a way than that. I’m not too worried about it. I think we need to figure out exactly how it’s going to be used.
“The biggest thing is how you charge it up and how that’s implemented in terms of not affecting the drivability of the car, so in terms of braking; there’s the most efficient ways of generating lap time from a race car where you have to charge and discharge, and it’s how you as a driver can adapt to that. Not only adapt in terms of driving, but use it in an almost driver-friendly way, and work with your engineering team to make it as efficient as possible to deploy and to not affect the driving in a negative way.”
Although competing in IndyCar full-time will be a new experience for Blomqvist, there will be a significant amount of familiarity. With MSR’s IMSA program closing its doors – for now, at least – the personnel from that moves over to the IndyCar side of the operation, with Blomqvist retaining his number one mechanic.
The addition of Felix Rosenqvist, who joins MSR after spells at Chip Ganassi Racing (2019-20) and Arrow McLaren (2021-23), as a team-mate also provides familiarity. The two raced each other for the 2009 Formula Renault title in Sweden, which Rosenqvist claimed while Blomqvist finished third.
They also battled for the Formula 3 European Championship in 2014, where Blomqvist finished runner-up to Esteban Ocon and directly ahead of current reigning three-time Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen. Rosenqvist finished up eighth in the standings, before winning it in 2015.
Blomqvist and Rosenqvist duelled on their way up the single-seater ladder in F3, and now will be reunited at Meyer-Shank in IndyCar
Photo by: Motorsport Images
“As one of the smaller teams, I think we probably have many advantages,” offers Rosenqvist. “We have obviously Honda, who are deeply involved in hybrid technology in F1. We have Meyer Shank Racing, who competed very competitively in IMSA with a hybrid. We have Tom, who’s been in Formula E, and is probably the strongest driver in recent times in IMSA with a hybrid.
“And then you have myself, who drove in Formula E for two and a half years. I think we all have some experience, and that makes a big difference. For some people working in IndyCar, this is all brand-new stuff, and for us it’s not. “I think if you look at the direct competition, we definitely have an advantage.”
Four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will also be someone to learn from. The 48-year-old Brazilian has taken a step back from full-time racing and leaned into an ownership role within MSR, but will still contest a one-off in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the May classic .
“If I can get to a place – which I strongly believe I can otherwise I wouldn’t be here – where I’m satisfied with my own performances and getting the results for the team, that’s realistic” Tom Blomqvist
“I’m very fortunate that Felix is, let’s say not a veteran in the series, but he’s now been here five years, so he’s got a lot of knowledge and he’s been through some of the things that I have,” says Blomqvist. “We kind of grew up together racing against one another, and I think his whole learning process from him when he came into the series, he came in this modern era so I can learn a lot from him, so I’m excited for that .
“Helio is a one-of-a-kind. I’ve known him for a while now. We’ve been team-mates in the car, in the sportscar stuff for the past couple of years, so I know how he works, and I know how he operates. I think it’s more about seeing how he gets through that whole month of May and how he structures his practice sessions, what he focuses on in a session to where he’s driving the direction of the car and all those little things. I’ve got a good bunch of guys there to read on in the various events we go to. I need to maximize that.”
In the end, the main goals Blomqvist aims to achieve aren’t based as much on results as maximizing his performance on a case-by-case basis while he develops: “The biggest thing is more a satisfaction level with my own performance. I’m used to everything I’ve done in years gone by; I’m disappointed if I’m not winning and on the podium, or fighting for victories, and I’m under no illusion that it’s not what I’m going to be expecting when I first roll out.
“But if I can get to a place – which I strongly believe I can otherwise I wouldn’t be here – where I’m satisfied with my own performances and getting the results for the team, that’s realistic. Maybe a top-15 in St Pete [the season opener in March]. I think that’s a reasonable target for me to go for. But the goal is to be here long term, and that means being competitive, race in, race out.”
Blomqvist has set relatively modest goals for his first season in IndyCar as he seeks to learn from those around him
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images