Pagenaud endures forgettable Fontana, falls to P5 in points, future sorted soon

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FONTANA, Calif. – Twentieth, seven laps down, from 12th on the grid was hardly the MAVTV 500 that Simon Pagenaud was looking for, while driving the MAVTV-sponsored No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda.

A frustrating night from start to finish cost the Frenchman any remote shot at a title, one which was already compromised before the race even began.

Pagenaud needed to win and hope Will Power finished 21st or worse, but after Pagenaud’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin was ruled out following his Friday accident, that already eliminated one potential Power finishing position.

Once Carlos Huertas retired early in the race from what was originally listed as “Medical” and later as “Driver Illness,” that officially and mathematically ended Pagenaud’s already slim title hopes.

Forgetting the title, the race itself was diabolical for Pagenaud. An ill-handling car and a series of pit stops that never seemed to stop took Pagenaud out of contention early and pretty much ended his hopes of having a good night.

It was particularly perplexing given he was high on confidence and with a solid car setup after Wednesday night’s test.

“It was not the night I expected actually,” Pagenaud said. “We don’t really know what was happening with the car but it didn’t handle how we prepared.

“We don’t have an answer tonight. We rebuilt after the accident, but the car never felt just as good. We finished seven laps down, so I have no idea what happened.”

From there, the tone shifted to Pagenaud’s looming decision as the marquee free agent in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with a tone that seemed to indicate, for the first time, a willingness to move away from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

“It’s been an incredible three years with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,” he said. When asked if he had any decision or update on his own future, he said, “Not yet, but soon. Within two weeks.”

Pagenaud also confirmed he’d see Aleshin on Sunday in hospital.

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.