Simon Pagenaud ‘agonizingly close’ to wins at Mid-Ohio, not to success in 2015

Leave a comment

When you sign on to race for Roger Penske, everyone expects greatness or something resembling it to follow.

While he showed early flashes of the driver that won four races over the last two years with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Simon Pagenaud has yet to find victory lane or finish at the front consistently in his first season driving the No. 22 for Team Penske.

IndyCar travels to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a race Sunday that sees Pagenaud in search of his second podium of the season and his fourth top-five, the last coming in a rain-shortened Detroit race one back in May.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good runs at Mid-Ohio in my career, whether it was in the Verizon IndyCar Series or in sports car competition,” Pagenaud said in a release.

“While I’ve won in sports cars at the circuit, I’ve been agonizingly close to winning in IndyCar with a couple of podium finishes.”

Those finishes were third in 2012 and second in 2013, when he led 14 laps before Charlie Kimball took the win.

“It’s clicked pretty well. If you look at my qualifying records so far, it’s the best it has ever been in my IndyCar career,” Pagenaud told the Mansfield News-Journal. The Frenchman has one pole and has started in the top five 11 times in 13 races.

Compare this to 2014 when he started in the top five just six times with one pole (Indianapolis Grand Prix).

“This gives me a great level of confidence for the weekend. Ben (Bretzman, engineer) and I have worked to develop a good package for Mid-Ohio and we’ve been competitive on the road courses throughout the year.”

In fact, all of Pagenaud’s top-five finishes in 2015 have been at road courses (St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Belle Isle).

But Pagenaud is still 10th in the points while his teammates Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Helio Castroneves all sit in the top five. The last time Pagenaud led laps was at Fontana with three, but his last time to dominate a stretch of a race were 59 of the first 70 laps at Texas in June before he faded to finish 11th.

“All I care about is we’re working well as a team,” Pagenaud told the News-Journal. “We are building up a new team. Most of the people on my crew were not working together in the past or not even working at Penske before. It’s going to take its natural course. Everybody has to be patient, but when it will click it should be pretty good.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
1 Comment

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.