Simon Pagenaud has praised Team Penske for its “incredible” effort in helping deliver a podium result in the team’s sports car racing return, after Saturday’s eventful Motul Petit Le Mans.
Pagenaud and fellow IndyCar aces Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves rebounded from nearly a two-lap deficit to finish third in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, in a race that had it all for the team, which was making its first sports car start in eight years.
Pole-sitter Castroneves was tagged by the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Matteo Cressoni just 18 minutes into the race, with the team’s Oreca 07 Gibson sustaining rear-end damage and going a lap down.
The Brazilian, however, charged back through the field, only for the car to shut off and crawl into the pits in the fourth hour in the hands of Montoya, before rejoining.
Crucially though, Montoya got back onto the lead lap while under the race’s fourth full-course caution but faced further misfortune when he made contact with Jack Hawksworth’s 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, leading to a left-rear puncture with 1 hour and 18 minutes to go.
The up-and-down race, however, was rewarded with an unexpected podium finish, courtesy of late-race penalties for both the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi of Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque’s No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
“I think we learned a lot today and it was an eventful day, which is good and exactly what we came for,” Pagenaud told Sportscar365.
“Overall, the team performed tremendously. It’s just incredible to me the effort the team put in and managing to be third in the end is incredible.
“The most important thing was to learn the ‘tricks’.
“For us, that was driving in traffic and for me running in traffic and getting my way around it.
“For the mechanics, it was to do pit stops, driver changes, and for the team strategists, it’s to understand what’s different to IndyCar racing.
“I think we accomplished all that today and I think that’s where the satisfaction comes from, more so than the results.”
While overcoming adversity on multiple occasions on the race track, Pagenaud said their much-talked about driver changes, which Castroneves said was “hysterical” pre-race, actually went better than expected in the ten-hour enduro.
“It actually went very smoothly in the race,” Pagenaud said. “I wouldn’t say it was phenomenal but it was decent not to lose too much time.
“This morning, we were up at 6:30 a.m. doing driver changes and fine-tuning it which is great and that’s what this team is all about.
“It’s a real team and everybody pulls together.
“Overall, I think the weekend went really well and driver changes ended up being decent, not hysterical!”
Pagenaud Hoping for 2018 Endurance Seat
Despite a busy schedule in the coming months, the Frenchman is hopeful of being part of Penske’s endurance lineup with its two-car DPi program.
Pagenaud is involved in the on-track testing of the new-generation IndyCar bodykit, which debuts next year.
“I’d love to do it but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now with the new IndyCar coming out and quite a bit of testing but I’d love to be a part of it,” he said.
“I love sports car racing and it makes me stronger to race different classes in different series so I hope it happens. We’ll see.”