Helio Castroneves says his familiarity with Team Penske will make his transition to full-time sports car racing much easier, as the IndyCar ace joins the team’s Acura DPi program.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner was announced on Wednesday as the third driver in Penske’s full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship lineup, joining Dane Cameron and open-wheel stablemate Juan Pablo Montoya in the two-car factory effort next year.
While the move to the Acura ARX-05 DPi is new territory for the Brazilian, he believes his long-term relationship with Penske will make the transition much smoother.
“The good news is it’s the same team, it’s the same people,” he said.
“It’s people that I worked with in IndyCar before, so when you have that kind of thing, it makes the transition and the learning curve much faster.”
Castroneves’ links with the Roger Penske-led team date back to 2000 and all 252 of his IndyCar Series starts between 2001 and 2017 were with the team.
“As a kid, all I wanted to do is drive,” he said. “That’s my goal. And again, having an opportunity to be not only with an incredible organization but also with Roger, it just means more than anything that people sometimes understand.
“Roger and Kathy and Tim Cindric and the entire organization has been behind me through the high times, through the low times, and for me, it’s just a no‑brainer.
“I feel honored to be in this position, but obviously I’m still continuing working hard.
“I still have a lot more fuel to burn, and now we’re going to be burning it in a sports car.”
While the Acura DPi won’t make its race debut until January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, Castroneves is joined by Montoya and Simon Pagenaud in an Oreca 07 Gibson competing in this weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans.
Castroneves took the LMP2 class win in the 2008 edition of the race and is looking to repeat his success upon his return this weekend.
His return to Road Atlanta, however, didn’t quite go to plan, as the Brazilian suffered a sizable accident in testing two weeks ago, although escaping injury.
“Well, it’s been quite a long time, almost ten years basically, the last time I was here, and I’m glad I was able to practice earlier,” Castroneves said.
“But again, last time I was here was so long ago, so different, and hopefully we can defend and repeat exactly what we did ten years ago.
“But right now obviously I’m excited. I’m pumped and I’m ready, and will be good to have myself, Juan Pablo and Simon trying out the first time here and I can’t wait to be in the race car.”