Last Sunday saw Simon Pagenaud contest the legendary Indianapolis 500 Miles for the very first time. It was also his first visit to the Super Speedway as a competitor. He is currently fifth overall and best rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and he ended up doing justice to that ranking as his remarkable start to the season continued. After starting from 23rd on the 33-car grid, he began by holding position and gradually moved up the order as some of those around him either made mistakes or crashed. Not only did the driver of the N°77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Dallara succeed in keeping up with the incredible pace of this unique race – which involves covering 200 laps at an average speed of 350kph! – but he also learnt a great deal from this first experience.
He crossed the line in 16th place and is now sixth in the championship standings. He was also the best-placed Frenchman, ahead of Sébastien Bourdais and Jean Alesi. Simon described the thrill of reaching the finish of his first Indy 500, which takes place just a few miles from his Indianapolis home, as a “dream come true”. And he is already looking forward to returning next year when his sights will be set even higher. For the moment, however, his thoughts are very much focused on next weekend’s Grand Prix of Detroit.
“My first attempt at the Indy 500 taught me so much. The first two stints were really tough. It took me a little time to find my marks but my driving gradually became more aggressive at the re-starts and I began to move up the order. It was all very positive. We will also need to find some extra speed and maybe we will run longer gears… The amazing work of my pit crew enabled me to pass several cars in the pit-lane and I was delighted to have brought the car home in one piece, especially since we go straight into a test at Milwaukee. That will enable me to continue familiarising myself with the niceties of ovals and my ambition is to win a race before the end of the year. A top-10 finish at Indianapolis would have been a good result, but 16th at first attempt wasn’t so bad…”