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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Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.
“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”
The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.
Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.
Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.
He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.
Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.
Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.
Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.
Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.
The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.
Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.
Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.