At just 19 years old, Zachary Claman de Melo may seem like a brand new face to the IndyCar paddock, but the season opener at St. Petersburg will be the culmination of a dream that the Montreal native has been actively seeking for the past few years.
The road to IndyCar began for DeMelo began with karting in eastern Canada. In 2008, the he began entering karting events across Canada.
Two years later, Claman De Melo earned the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, as well as the Canadian karting National Championship. The titles would be the first of five straight Eastern Canadian championships and the first of three consecutive Canadian National Championships for De Melo.
After a karting career that also included a third-place finish at the Rotax Karting World Championships, he moved onto car racing. The car racing debut for Claman De Melo would come during the 2014-2015 Formula Skip Barber winter series, where he won two out of the four races he competed in.
After moving to Europe in 2015, the Canadian competed in a variety of Formula Renault 2.0 series. Upon a move to the invitational class of the MSV F3 Cup, Claman De Melo earned a victory in each of the eight races he competed in.
2016 marked a return to North America for the young racer, as he signed with Juncos Racing to compete in Indy Lights. During his rookie year, he notched three top five and nine top ten finishes. T
The best finish of 2016 would come in the second race of a doubleheader at Road America, where he finished fourth. In July of 2016, he would participate in a Verizon IndyCar Series test with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
For 2017, Claman De Melo would remain in Indy Lights, but would do so while competing for a new team. Carlin Motorsport added him to their roster for the season.
Making the most of his latest opportunity, Claman De Melo would earn his first career Indy Lights victory in the second race during the Road America doubleheader. After earning an additional six top five finishes and running in the top ten in 14 of 16 races, he ended the season fifth in the championship.
Two weeks after the Indy Lights season finale in Watkins Glen, Claman De Melo would again get a shot at the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Claman de Melo drove with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway on September 17, starting 21st and finish the day 17th. After spending much of the offseason searching for a ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series, his hard work was rewarded in late January.
Dale Coyne Racing invited Claman De Melo to test the 2018 IndyCar with fellow rookie Pietro Fittipaldi, as the two would join Sebastien Bourdais during the team’s testing.
After his first test of the 2018 IndyCar at Sebring on January 24th and 25th, Claman De Melo spoke about his experience with the team and the new car.
“I didn’t do as much time in the old Indy car as (veteran drivers) did, so it wasn’t as big an adjustment for me,” De Melo said in the team’s January 30 press release.
“It’s more similar to the Indy Lights car than the old Indy car. That’s kind of helped me a little bit. It’s been a fast adjustment so far. And it was a very productive test for us. I want to thank Dale for giving me this opportunity to test with them and I hope we can continue working together in the near future.”
Team owner Dale Coyne also relayed positive feedback regarding Claman De Melo’s initial time with the team.
“Zachary knew what he was doing in the car, he adapted well, understood the changes we were making, and we were very pleased,” Coyne noted.
Claman de Melo’s hard work paid off. On February 7, he was announced by Dale Coyne Racing as the driver of their no. 19 Dallara-Honda for 10 of the 17 races on the 2018 schedule, a ride he would split with Fittipaldi. With the entry being sponsored by PaySafe, a long-time supporter of De Melo, the Canadian expressed gratitude for their part in the opportunity.
“Paysafe helped me attain a life ambition last September when I made my Verizon IndyCar Series debut in Sonoma,” De Melo exclaimed in a team press release from the day of the announcement.
“I am hugely grateful for their ongoing support as I prepare for the forthcoming races; I feel proud to be representing their brand again on the race track and I shall be doing all I can to get the Paysafe car into victory lane!”
In addition to running the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Claman De Melo will also pilot the car for the races at Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, Belle Isle, Road America, Iowa, Toronto, Pocono and Gateway.
After working his way through the ranks of karting and formula series around the world, Claman De Melo will be facing his biggest task yet during his 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series slate, will look to prove he has what it takes to compete with the best IndyCar has to offer.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR.