Roger Penske has spoken out on his desire to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, indicating that overall victory in the French endurance classic is one of his team’s few remaining goals.
The legendary motorsports operation, which fields entries in NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and Australian Supercars, has not tackled the French endurance classic since 1971 when Team Penske fielded a Ferrari 512M for Mark Donohue and David Hobbs under the NART banner.
Penske, who made one start in the race as a driver in 1963, spoke on his ambitions in an interview with Allan McNish during last weekend’s virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, where a Team Penske-entered Oreca 07 LMP2 car took part.
“One of the things for us as a team is to be amongst the greatest people we’ve seen in motorsports,” he said. “For [anyone] that’s had a chance to be a winner [at Le Mans] and it’s certainly a goal for us.
“We all need goals and I’ve been very fortunate over the years racing with our teams to [win] championships, great wins.
“There’s always that one you want. I think that’s one of the things that Le Mans would mean to us as a team.
“Certainly for me personally. It’s a goal that we want to [achieve].”
Penske, as well as several other IMSA owners including Wayne Taylor, are hoping the ACO and IMSA’s new common LMDh ruleset will allow them to compete in the race and fight for overall victory.
That possibility could come as early as 2022, although both governing bodies have indicated that a delay in the rollout of the new regulations could be possible due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Team Penske’s current contract with Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is understood to be through the end of this year, although the LMDh formula has seen an influx of manufacturer interest, including from Porsche, which Penske claimed three American Le Mans Series LMP2 titles with the RS Spyder program.
“The rules, at least the way they’re announced currently, could give us a chance to come back and maybe compete,” Penske said.
“It’s not going to be easy. There’s too many people with experience. It’s that domain now and experience of the drivers and how hard to go. It’s about reliability. We have to be ready.
“I’m so glad our guys are finding out how tough it is to run there today.”
Penske said its virtual entry at Le Mans last weekend, comprised entirely of its real-world drivers, was used more as a learning experience.
The Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor-driven entry, sporting Acura Team Penske colors, finished 27th out of the 30-car LMP field.
“The guys that represent us every single day on the track are winners in what they do,” Penske said. “You’ve got Formula champions, two Indy 500 champions and Dane and Ricky, [who are] obviously fantastic IMSA drivers.
“We looked at our team and that’s what they wanted to do.
“You always want to have the car up front. But I think we’re learning. I was just happy to be invited. You’ve got to be invited to run Le Mans any time, so the fact that we could partake in this was a great honor for me.”