Former American Le Mans and IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud said he came away impressed with Acura’s newest prototype challenger following his first test in the ARX-05 DPi at Daytona earlier this week.
Speaking to assembled media at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on Thursday, the Team Penske driver compared the car to one of the most succesful prototypes of recent memory, the Peugeot 908.
“I drove it yesterday for the first time in Daytona and I had a blast,” Pagenaud said. “The car reminds me of a mini-Peugeot basically, if that gives you an idea.
“It’s just like it except it’s a turbo engine, but it behaves like the diesel used to: lot’s of torque, beautiful car to drive, easy to drive fast. I had a really good time and really enjoyed it.
“It’s well balanced but to go fast you have to push it. You are able to slide the car around as well.
“I think it’s the Continental tires that are that way, but you get to slide it around quite a bit and it’s very fun to drive.”
The Frenchman said that dabbling in sports car racing helps keep him sharp for his day job in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Pagenaud has been confirmed in the No. 6 Acura alongside full-season drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya for both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“Driving a different car is an advantage because it refreshed my mind,” he said. “When you drive your car every day, you get used to the little problems. You don’t feel it any more.
“It’s a good thing to reset to another reference so when I go back to the IndyCar I have a fresh mind and I see the weaknesses more and I’m able to help improve it better.
“I think it’s a good thing. It’s definitely important to keep the focus on the right things, so I’ll have to be very disciplined with that, but I’ve done it in the past and I just want to drive.
“It’s more experience so it should be fun.”
Penske to Be Instant Contender
With the car’s competition debut in next month’s Rolex 24 fast approaching, Pagenaud indicated that he expects the Penske outfit to be ready to contend for victories right out of the gate.
“The car itself is well advanced already,” he said. “The engine felt very, very good.
“Now the thing that I don’t know about, and that’s the thing in sports car racing which I’ve experienced in the past, that’s the Balance of Performance. What is it going to be like?
“IMSA is going to have to find a way, with all these cars and all these manufacturers, to adjust each engine and each chassis to be equal and be able to race together.
“You never know if you’re going to be on the right side of it or the wrong side of it. It doesn’t mean that one guy is worse than another sometimes. That’s going to be the unknown, and you have to deal with it.
“I think Honda and Acura have done a fantastic job so far. The car felt ready to race to me. There’s obviously a lot of testing to go for reliability but so far it’s been reliable, fast, and strong.
“Crossed fingers, we’ll get to the end and get a Rolex.”