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Long-time IndyCar race director Brian Barnhart is leaving the organisation to become president of new team Harding Racing.
Mike Harding’s team is intending to enter IndyCar full-time in 2018, having made its debut in a partial programme with Gabby Chaves this year.
Barnhart has worked for IndyCar’s organising body since the early days of the Indy Racing League in 1997.
He lost his position as race director at the end of 2011 following a series of officiating controversies but returned as part of a new panel system for the ’15 season.
The 56-year-old held the joint position of IndyCar vice president of competition and race director this season before deciding to leave to join Harding.
“I’m very excited about getting back on the team side and competitive side of things again,” said Barnhart, who was a crew member with Galles, Penske and Patrick Racing in his pre-IRL career.
“It’s certainly one of the components that factored in heavily in making the decision.
“I’ve been with IndyCar for 23-plus years, obviously a huge part of my life, and that makes the decision extremely difficult to make because of the opportunities that have been afforded to me by the Hulman-George family, IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“They’re an incredibly loyal and supportive group of people in the family and I feel like a part of the family.”
Harding Racing already has double CART Indycar champion Al Unser Jr on board as executive consultant and former Menard and Vision Racing man Larry Curry as team manager.
“We are thrilled to have Brian join Harding Racing,” said team owner Harding.
“Brian’s years of experience on both the IndyCar competition side and the operations side makes him an invaluable resource within the league.
“We have the legendary Al Unser Jr, an incredibly talented young driver in Gabby Chaves, a hand-picked winning crew led by team manager Larry Curry, and now Brian.
“He is the missing piece that will take Harding Racing to victory lane.”