The team is looking to defend 2013 win.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) returns to the site of its first Verizon IndyCar Series victory this weekend for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, and the team hopes to defend its reign through the Streets of Belle Isle with drivers Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin.
Pagenaud's victory in Race 2 at the 2013 Dual in Detroit was the first Verizon IndyCar Series win of the Frenchman's career. But it wasn't his first taste of success on the 13-turn, 2.36-mile temporary street course. Each of the three times Pagenaud has competed at Belle Isle, he has found the podium. In 2008 he placed third in the American Le Mans Series race with de Ferran Motorsports, in 2012 he placed third as a Verizon IndyCar Series rookie with SPM, and he found victory circle in 2013 with SPM.
"I'm happy to be back in Detroit because it's a place where I enjoy driving," Pagenaud said. "It suits me very well, and I've had good results there my whole career, whether it be in sports car or IndyCar."
Pagenaud and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports also won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10, which is the most recent Verizon IndyCar Series race on a road course.
"We're going to Detroit with a very aggressive approach, which is to try and win the race again," he said. "There's no reason why we shouldn't be competitive. I like the fact that the Belle Isle track is narrow and that the tarmac changes. It's a track where you really have to attack. There's a lot of grip on the course after we run a few laps, and you really have to commit to the corners to succeed there."
Pagenaud's No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car will feature a bright orange livery to promote its primary sponsor for the race weekend, Oculus Transport. Pagenaud is also excited to race near the U.S. headquarters of Magneti Marelli in Auburn Hills, Mich., one of the team's associate sponsors.
"Magneti Marelli makes high-tech electronics for cars, among other things, and they are very involved with our team and with Honda," Pagenaud said. "I'm excited to represent them so near to their home base. It's a company I've grown up knowing about because they have a factory very close to my hometown in France."
Pagenaud's SPM rookie teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, is preparing to make the mental switch to road course racing after his first oval event, the Indianapolis 500 despite learning this month he loved racing on ovals.
"Before the Indianapolis 500, I would have said that a track like Detroit would have been more comfortable for me," Aleshin said. "I was really surprised with how natural I felt driving on the oval in Indianapolis, however. There are drivers who love ovals and drivers who hate ovals, and I found out quickly that I love them."
Aleshin and the No. 7 SMP Racing crew will have little time to acclimate to the street course in Belle Isle.
"It's going to be a big adjustment to go from a race like the Indy 500, where you have so much preparation, to these races in Detroit," Aleshin said. "We only get two practice sessions before qualifying this weekend, which is one less than normal. That will be a struggle because I've never raced on the track before."
Aleshin has spent his limited time after the Indianapolis 500 running the Belle Isle circuit on the simulator with his team. With only one day off between the "500" and the Dual in Detroit, both SPM teammates will budget their time carefully to ensure they are prepared for the doubleheader race weekend in Detroit.
"There's not much time to understand what happened in Indianapolis, as far as what we did well and what we should have done better," Pagenaud said. "It's not much time to debrief and switch your mind to another gear for the road course. The good news is that we know we have a strong baseline to work from since we won here last year."