Helio Castroneves is enjoying the challenge of adapting to prototype racing ahead of his full-season debut with the new Acura Team Penske operation at the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month.
Speaking at the Roar Before the 24 test, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner says he has benefitted from his teammates helping him in the learning process.
“It feels great, I’m very fortunate to be a part of this group,” he said. “Obviously, we know each other, and it’s great to be learning with those young guys now, and Ricky [Taylor] is the [reigning] champion.
“I’m learning a new style and learning new techniques and different cars, which is great. For me, that’s what I want to do.
“I want to keep racing and I’m very happy to be part of a different program but a very well-respected program in sports cars right now.”
After completing a substantial test program over the winter following Penske’s entry in the Motul Petit Le Mans in October, Castroneves says the adaptation to the new style of racing has been successful but admits it is still ongoing.
“It is different, having a roof on top of your head, and the amount of space that you have,” he said. “I actually have a lot of space, compared to Graham [Rahal], when he gets in the car! We’re still trying to make some adjustments so he can feel comfortable.
“The approaching speed is not that bad. They have an amazing amount of approaching speed and cornering-wise, it’s a little bit different.
“I’m still trying to understand some of the tracks, and that’s why we’ve done a lot of mileage where we’ve been pushing and trying different things.
“It’s a new program and everybody is learning. I’m learning, Acura is learning, Team Penske is learning.
“So far, everything is going with a nice rhythm. Still, we’ll continue learning and hopefully that learning process will get the result that we want.”
Penske’s return to sports car racing with its one-off Petit Le Mans entry, in which Castroneves co-drove an Oreca 07 Gibson with Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, was a success with the team managing a third-place finish.
Buoyed by this result, Castroneves is hopeful of continued success with the Acura at the Rolex 24, and he has his eye on the overall victory.
“Absolutely, I know we have a chance,” he said. “We not only have a chance, but we’re doing everything we can to get the result that we’re expecting.
“I’ve raced here twice and the last time, we finished third even having issues with the engine. We know that we’ll never give up and the team will never give up, no matter what happens.
“That’s probably everybody’s mentality when it comes to this race. Some of the guys have already experienced getting the watch and that’s what I have in mind.”
John Dagys contributed to this report