Moonlighting IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud wins first career rally event

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There’s nothing like racing in front of your hometown crowd to get a driver pumped up more than usual.

That was the case this past weekend as French driver Simon Pagenaud won his first-ever rally race in front of many of his friends and family in the Rallye National de la Vienne.

“What a weekend!” said Pagenaud, 29. “I’m obviously delighted to have won my first rally in my home part of France and with the backing of the local regional authorities.

“It didn’t take me long to feel comfortable enough in the Peugeot to start pushing hard. The conditions changed drastically throughout the race, but we managed to adapt, and our pace notes were perfect.”

Pagenaud, who drives in the IndyCar series for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, often moonlights in other series, including rally racing and other forms of sports car competition.

His win came in the March 7-8 event in and around his native La Vienne region of France. Piloting a Team FJ-prepared Peugeot S2000, Pagenaud and co-driver Manu Dechatre outlasted several other French drivers to take the checkered flag.

“The support of all my partners enabled me to indulge my passion for rallying once again behind the wheel of what was, frankly, an incredible car,” Pagenaud said. “The only frustrating thing was that it was over so quickly, and I had to hand back the keys of the car!”

Check out the highlight video of Pagenaud’s win below:

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Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”