Ex-Formula 1 driver Chilton switched to the US open-wheel scene in 2015 with the Carlin team, he and the squad entering the Indy Lights series together. Despite missing three races, Chilton finished fifth in the championship, partly thanks to victory at Iowa Speedway. He also took three pole positions.
The following year, Chilton graduated to IndyCar with the Chip Ganassi Racing team, and in 2017 led 50 laps of the Indianapolis 500, eventually finishing fourth.
When Carlin moved up to IndyCar in 2018, inevitably Chilton, whose father Grahame has been part-owner of the squad since 2009, switched across. That first year for Carlin was tough for all concerned, but it was the following year’s DNQ at Indy that prompted Chilton to quit all ovals bar the 500.
This became a self-imposed policy for 2020 and ’21, Chilton admitting at the time that he didn’t like the restricted practice time on most ovals. He said he preferred the methodology of Indy, where he and his peers had adequate time to build up to speed and learn “respect” for each other over the course of several practice days, rather than the “free-for-all” nature of practice sessions and races in an increasingly condensed oval weekend schedule.
Now, following the announcement that he is helping McMurtry Automotive develop its Speirling EV track car, Chilton has revealed his time in IndyCar is over – although he’s not retiring from the sport.
“I genuinely feel like this opportunity with McMurtry is meant to be,” the 30-year-old Briton told Autosport. “I’ve been in IndyCar for a number of years, and I’ve also always had other interests.
“It was my decision to stop IndyCar and it’s something I’ve been thinking about it for a little while. I had a couple of businesses that I wanted to expand but didn’t have time, so I took the decision. I’m not hanging up my boots – that’s why I haven’t announced anything since I did my last race in IndyCar. I don’t want people to think I’m retiring.
Max Chilton, Carlin Chevrolet
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
“I’d love to do LMDh, but I don’t think that’s going to happen this season, but having a year out is not a big problem. I’d love to do Le Mans again, that’s what I’m passionate about, and I very much hope I’ll get the chance to do that in 2023. It’s something I touched on with the [unusual front-engined front-wheel-drive] Nissan NISMO in 2015, but it was a bit of a flopped project and so I never really had a proper shot at Le Mans.
“So I don’t think I’ll be racing this year but that’s not a big concern to me because I’m really lucky with this McMurtry drive. All the stars have aligned.”
Chilton, who remained based out of Reigate in the UK throughout his IndyCar career, said the decision to quit IndyCar racing was a progressive process.
“I really hoped that when we stepped back from oval racing, that we were going to extract more from the car and get better results. I still think we did well, for how little we put into it, and how I was on my own for most of the time.
“Motorsport is competitive in general, but IndyCar in the last five or six years has become more competitive than it’s ever been and the teams who are doing best are the multi-car teams. You know we had a situation where a four-car team has got a technical partnership with a two-car team [Andretti Autosport and Meyer Shank Racing], so that’s six cars’-worth of data, and we were literally on our own.
“Relatively speaking, in those circumstances, I think we did a good job a lot of the time. But I think what stood out for me was that last year I got my first top-10 finish for Carlin. It was Road America, and I honestly nailed that race from the start to the finish, gave 110%, and the team gave great calls strategy-wise and to get that 10th I went around the outside of Graham Rahal and another car with two laps to go. I was doing some moves that I would not normally do. Everything was perfect… and we still finish 10th.
“I’ve done enough single-seater races that I know the job that we did that day all deserved better than that, and I was thinking, ‘The only way this is going to evolve is if we get lots more cars in the team or we get a big new investor in the team.’ We didn’t really spend anything developing the car the last two years. When Juncos Hollinger approached about a technical alliance, I thought, ‘OK, maybe this is the time to go’. I could have carried on but sometimes you’ve got to go with your heart.”
Max Chilton, Carlin Chevrolet
Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images
Asked if he had looked at joining any other teams, Chilton replied: “I think some teams, late last season, were aware of the way I was thinking, because I’m friendly with some of the drivers and I probably said too much. So I think some people knew I was available, but nothing ever came up.”
Of his sportscar aims, Chilton said: “I highly doubt anything will come up for this year, because I’m not actively pushing for it, and the season’s just around the corner, and they’re going to be testing very soon.
“I’m working on some things, some connections, for next year potentially, but the work with McMurtry is certainly keeping my eye in. Some people probably think it’s not, but they have no idea how fast the Speirling is!
“So we’ll just keep working away on that, while also looking to Le Mans for 2023.”