Mission Accomplished for French racer as Pagenaud picks up $2 million towards his 2007 Champ Car season (Elkhart Lake, WI) 26 September 2006--Simon Pagenaud accomplished his mission on Sunday, taking the 2006 Yokohama presents the Champ ...
Mission Accomplished for French racer as Pagenaud picks up $2 million towards his 2007 Champ Car season
(Elkhart Lake, WI) 26 September 2006--Simon Pagenaud accomplished his mission on Sunday, taking the 2006 Yokohama presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship over title contender Graham Rahal at Road America in the final event of the 2006 season.
Pagenaud, who signed with Team Australia and moved to the States with one goal in mind, to win the championship and move up to Champ Car in 2007, earned $2 million dollars toward that goal with the championship victory.
"Without this prize, I think my racing career would be over, but now I know I will be racing in Champ Car in 2007 and it's an amazing feeling," said Pagenaud. "Yesterday, I didn't know my future, but today I do and now I can move forward and have a chance in Champ Car. The team did such a great job every weekend and Derrick Walker kept me focused on winning this championship, and it is just fantastic to accomplish this goal."
The highly-anticipated championship battle on the magnificent Road America circuit didn't develop as expected, though, as both Pagenaud and Rahal failed to make the finish of the eighteen-lap event. Starting from the front row after his eighth Friday pole effort of the season, Pagenaud took a cautious approach to the standing start, making his way cleanly into the first corner but losing a pair of positions in the process.
Despite a healthy thirteen-point advantage in the points heading into the race, Pagenaud had no intention of coasting to a championship and began to work his way back forward, passing Rahal for third position before a full course caution slowed the field. The caution period would prove to have a significant impact on the championship, as Rahal pulled off course with a mechanical problem and was unable to finish the race.
On the restart, Pagenaud made a convincing pass for second place over James Hinchcliff, but Canadian put in a strong return charge, only to make significant contact with Pagenaud under braking and ending Pagenaud's run at Elkhart Lake.
"It is a shame that Graham and I had troubles in the race and weren't able to fight to the finish because I have really enjoyed racing against him all season," said Pagenaud. "But I knew we had a car that could win the race and when I saw that he was out, I felt like 'now I can really go for it."
Pagenaud's triumph was well received, even by his competitors well before the race ended.
"Andreas (Wirth) pulled up next to me during the yellow after Graham dropped out and gave me a big thumbs up, like 'You did it!" explained Pagenaud, who is hoping to test a Champ Car soon.
Despite a frustrating conclusion to his impressive rookie season, the seventeen-year old Rahal showed maturity and class beyond his years, heartily congratulating Pagenaud after the race on his championship and their season-long battle.
The seventeenth-place finish was the worst result of the year for Pagenaud, who set the tone for the season in the very first qualifying session of the season as he scored the Friday provisional pole on a track he'd never even seen before at Long Beach, a feat he would go on to repeat a total of eight times during the twelve-race season. Pagenaud scored seven podium finishes on the year with a win in Edmonton capping off his season.
Another former Champ Car Atlantics Champion, A.J. Allmendinger, won the Champ Car race.
Pagenaud is looking forward to focusing on finalizing his plans for the 2007 season, and is carefully evaluating all of his options.
"My heart is with Team Australia of course-it would be hard to leave a team that taught me so much about living in America and of course getting me to the championship, but for now I am going to see what happens," said Pagenaud. "I just want to enjoy this moment and celebrate this championship and then start to focus on what is next."