Who dat?

Posted by Iannucci | 1/21/2009 | 21 comments »
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There was a time when Dreyer & Reinbold was a competitive team in the IRL, a championship contender even. That was way back when Mario Moraes was still in grade school, and in the days that have past the team has steadily drifted into a last island of refuge for drivers trying to stay in the IndyCar series. Hey, everyone has a role, right?

Well out of the blue yesterday - while absolutely no one was paying attention - D&R proudly introduced their newest driver, who shockingly appears to be at the beginning of his career.

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing announced today that it has come to an agreement with British racer Mike Conway to become the team's first confirmed driver for the 2009 IndyCar Series campaign.

The 25-year old rookie comes to the U.S.-based open-wheel series after spending the majority of his career in the European formula car ladder. Most recently, he completed his second season driving in the GP2 Series with Trident Racing in 2008. He was also a Honda F1 Racing test driver for the past two seasons.

Conway has been one of the top up-and-coming British drivers for the last several years, having won the prestigious British Formula 3 Championship with Raikkonen Robertson Racing in 2006. That year was also highlighted by a win in the famed Macau Grand Prix. His most recent success was winning a round at the famous streets of Monte Carlo in Monaco in the GP2 Series in 2008.
I gotta be honest - I have no idea who this guy is. I remember reading something about him having a test with Panther Racing last year, but I figured that was for the Indy Lights ride. The again I also figured that Buddy Rice or Milka Duno or Townsend Bell would be driving for D&R. Dude could be the second coming of Michael Schumacher for all I know, although I suspect our British bud Patrick at Too Much Racing might have an actual clue as to what kind of driving we should expect from Mr Conway.

With full humility I ask: Anyone here know anything about him?

21 comments

  1. Dean // January 21, 2009 11:51 AM  

    Not a clue. But I think he'll bring better results to D&R Racing than Milkalicious.

  2. Simon // January 21, 2009 12:03 PM  

    Very good in GP2. Was a Honda F1 test driver for the past couple of years. Another driver Danica will trail behind on road courses.

  3. Mike // January 21, 2009 12:04 PM  

    He won Monaco in GP2

  4. Jesse // January 21, 2009 12:18 PM  

    Full disclaimer: I'd never heard of him before either, here is what I found after I dug around the net a bit:

    Conway did in fact win a sprint race at Monaco. He started first, gaining pole by finishing 8th in the previous race. I know a win is a win, but there is perhaps no better place on earth to start P1 than Monaco.

    He began the season as a title contender, but finished in the middle of the pack in GP2 last season. Many think his team (Trident) was not as competitive as initially thought, and he did outperform his lone teammate by quite a bit (20 pts. to 7) but by all accounts it seems the season was a disappointment, as Trident was already testing their new '09 drivers at season's end.

    Not to dog on him, I wish Conway and D&R the best. Plus, it's always nice to have a Brit or two in the IRL.

  5. Robbie // January 21, 2009 1:24 PM  

    He was impressive as all get out at Macau. Hopefully he does as well on concrete-lined ovals as he does on concrete-lined street circuits.

  6. Too Much Racing // January 21, 2009 1:59 PM  

    Wow, I got a link - thanks!

    Obviously I'm supporting him all the way, but I'll see if I can offer an objective summary here.

    I do watch GP2. His whole Monaco weekend was the high point of his season. He would have got 3rd in the feature race but a lapped car punted him out on the last lap, luckily it dropped him to 8th which gave him the reverse grid pole position.

    A sprint race win is all well and good (hey, it doesn't hurt) - but you are only really taken seriously in GP2 when you win a feature race. This is slightly different at Monaco because, well, it's Monaco. Threading the needle takes a bit of skill.

    Jesse's summary was spot on. He was expected to be mixing it with di Grassi, Senna and Grosjean for the title but maybe in more of an 'outsider' role than those 'central characters'. He was expected to score multiple wins but wasn't being talked of in the same breath as those others.

    The main reason he didn't was his team, which I'd call 'upper midfielders' rather than 'title contenders'. The top teams each have two drivers capable of winning, each helping drive the set-up of the car forward, and Trident didn't have that. And this was a new Dallara for '08.

    Put it this way: he's better than his results indicate. He wasn't the absolute fastest in GP2 but he wasn't a million miles off it. He's lap times tend to be consistently fast rather than one very fast lap then a series of slower ones.

    I like Conway. In terms of performance he could be described as the next Darren Manning, can be quick but prone to bad luck. He seems to be the guy who's car has that annoying mechanical problem. I'm not sure if it's the way he drives it...

    Like me he's a quiet guy (he'll need to work on his PR side in America) but he puts his head down and does a solid job, but unlike a lot of other 'solid job' guys he's not afraid to race other drivers. He's VERY good at coming through the field from the back. He's good at judging when to make a move and when not to. Lots of other drivers just send it up the inside and hope they brake later than their target, and act surprised when the collision occurs.

    I think he'll like ovals... once he's used to them.
    It's a shame he's not replacing Duno, it should be Rice or Bell in the other car. Or.... Manning!

    (OK this was much more than I'd intended to write, sorry about that.)

  7. Iannucci // January 21, 2009 2:08 PM  

    Thanks so much for the info. I will offer you all complimentary lifetime subscriptions to "My Name Is IRL" for your endeavors.

    Now, more importantly - anyone got a nickname for Mr Conway?

  8. Danica Patrick // January 21, 2009 2:11 PM  

    I don't even know who that is.

  9. SS Minnow // January 21, 2009 2:55 PM  

    How tall is he?
    Dorf was always a favorite character....

  10. SS Minnow // January 21, 2009 3:11 PM  

    Well, after looking at some pics of young Mr. Conway, he reminds me of Ron Howard. The red hair, freckles, etc. Opie comes to mind as well as simply, Red (Wait, that was a British band, Simply Red that is). Carrot Top would be too easy.

  11. JOWT // January 21, 2009 4:13 PM  

    Conway is a solid find for D&R, I expect him to do quite well in 2009. As stated by Patrick, "he's better than his results indicate", plus he has a ton of experience. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the ovals.

  12. llilly // January 21, 2009 4:14 PM  

    I noticed Buddy Rice is gone from the IRL web page today -- but not Milka.

    It has to be Opie.

  13. Too Much Racing // January 21, 2009 5:35 PM  

    I maybe should have compared him to Vitor. Same sort of luck. Quick but other people take him out, or a 50 cent widget blows up the car.

  14. Leigh O'Gorman // January 21, 2009 5:39 PM  

    Quite good in GP2 I though

    Unfortunately with Honda's sudden and complete withdrawal from F1 left him nowhere very late in the year

    Excellent that he's found a seat somewhere

  15. AZZO45 // January 21, 2009 8:46 PM  

    So I guess the Dad's Rootbeer check bounced & so D&R bounced Buddy???

    I wish Mr. Conway well, however it looks like history wants to repeat itself in American OW. Comb Europe & Japan for a midpack $$$ driver because he pays the bills & is good enough to keep the crash damage to a minimum?

    If his stock was worth promoting he would be a test driver for an F1 team or have ties to DTM or a sportscar team. This is the "winning formula" CCWS went with in 2005-06-07. Mid pack wantabees don't inspire tickets sales or series loyalty.

    When Emerson Fittipaldi, Gil DeFerran, Dario, Alex Zanardi, JPM, Max Papis, Christian Fittipaldi & Kenny Brack came to CART... they had had success & championships.

    Bobby Rahal,Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Helio, Greg Moore, Jacques Villenueve, Bryan Herta & others GRADUATED as champions from the U.S. "feeder" system.

    These drivers EARNED their ride & deserved to be promoted to the American public. You don't make a dent into the NASCAR Machine with inexpensive, mid-pack $$$ drivers.

    If Conway proves to be a future star... fine, I will eat my words like a man. However, IMO he will follow the path of the "Who Cares" list. Think IRL entry lists 1996-99... CCWS lists of 2006-07.

  16. Leigh O'Gorman // January 22, 2009 6:46 AM  

    @ AZZO45

    he was a test driver for honda, but has been said already, honda's sudden departure from f1 has left everyone in the team in the cold

  17. Bring Back Roger Yasukawa // January 22, 2009 7:11 AM  

    Conway is a reasonable enough shoe and will most likely shine on the "twisty courses" and not so much the ovals. Who knows, maybe D&R have a diamond in the rough on their hands.

  18. SandWedge // January 22, 2009 9:37 AM  

    Not that anyone here has said it, just wanted to mention that today Cavin said from his information Conway did not bring a big sponsorship/check to DRR. Just in case you know anyone thinking it.

  19. Too Much Racing // January 22, 2009 1:42 PM  

    The other thing to consider is the new rule in F1: the in-season testing ban.

    Pretty much makes a test driver redundant between March and November.

    Teams are allowed to test on Fridays of a race weekend but will almost certainly use the race drivers - and if not, most teams already have a string of guys on stand-by anyway.

  20. Anonymous // January 22, 2009 2:17 PM  

    Can we play more trivia games? I would like a chance to win a complimentary lifetime subscription to "My Name Is IRL".

    Thank you.

  21. Leigh O'Gorman // January 22, 2009 10:05 PM  

    @ TMR

    true - i keep forgetting that new rule (seeing as how there are so many)