Nancy Knapp Schilke
Even while he enjoyed his time spent in sportscar racing, Simon Pagenaud still kept his dream alive to return to open-wheel racing. The 2006 Atlantic Series champion’s wish came true today during a press conference in Indianapolis. Pagenaud will contest the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the new Dallara with a Honda power plant.
“I am delighted to be joining the IZOD Indy Car Series full-time with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Honda,” Pagenaud said. “The series represents the most competitive racing in the world right now, and I am really looking forward to the challenge of racing in a single-seater again. I have to thank Sam Schmidt Motorsports for giving me the opportunity and to continue with the Honda engineers at HPD. It is the best situation I could wish for.”
Pagenaud’s last full season in Indy cars was under the umbrella of the Champ Car World Series (CCWS) with Team Australia. In his rookie season, he finished eighth. However, like many drivers, the merger of IndyCar and CCWS left him without a ride for the 2008 season.
Pagenaud then turned his attention to Le Mans-style racing and landed rides in the prototype class. In 2008 he joined de Ferran Motorsports racing driving one of the Honda Performance Development Acura LM P2 cars. The next year, the team moved up to P1 and finished second in the American Le Mans Series. Changes again occurred for the French hot shoe as Gil de Ferran left the series and Pagenaud moved to the Highcroft Racing HPD team, which was at one point a rival team, but he was still racing an Acura prototype. In 2010, the team took the top class title and Pagenaud and David Brabham celebrated the drivers’ championship.
“We are very fortunate to land a driver of Simon’s caliber for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season,” Schmidt said. “As all the teams work to develop the new cars and engines, his diverse experience will be invaluable to us. Simon has a strong relationship with Honda and its engineers, which is also a huge asset. This is a big day for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.”
Pagenaud also landed 24 Hours of Le Mans rides, most notably with the Peugeot Sport team. This year, he teamed up with Pedro Lamy and Sebastien Bourdais for the June classic race on the La Sarthe circuit. The trio finished third in their Peugeot 908 LM P1, just missing the victory by 13.8 seconds.
I am thrilled to be renewing my relationship with Simon.
He also landed two IndyCar rides this year with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. At Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Pagenaud finished eighth and later at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he took 13th. Not a bad showing with the team after being sidelined from Indy car racing for quite some time. His third ride in IndyCar was with HVM Racing at Sonoma, California. All three rides were ones where he was a substitute driver and no doubt it allowed him to show his ability to jump back into an Indy car.
Alongside Schmidt and Pagenaud in today’s announcement was Rob Edwards who is the team manager for SSM. Edwards held the same position at Walker Racing when Pagenaud took the Atlantic championship and he said, “I am thrilled to be renewing my relationship with Simon. He has continued to develop since then and is clearly deserving of a full-time ride in the IZOD IndyCar Series. We are excited that he will have that opportunity with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2012 and look forward to a successful rookie season with him.”
Yesterday, team boss Schmidt received an award at the International Motorsports Industry Show being held in Indianapolis. Upon receiving the 2011 IMIS Achievement Award, the SSM team owner said, “This is a tremendous honor for me to win the International Motorsports Industry Show Achievement Award. It’s very humbling and is really an award for all of our employees who work so hard to build championship-winning racecars. It meant a lot to me to have Chip (Ganassi) and Randy (Bernard) there to present the award, as well. I just can’t thank everyone enough for this honor.”