Team Penske enters Petit Le Mans following months of buildup

Oreca 07 Gibson at Monterey. Photo: Getty Images
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Team Penske will make its return to sports car racing in Motul Petit Le Mans next week, as the trio of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud will be in action in a one-off Oreca 07 Gibson.

The run in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale comes as preparation and following months of discussion ahead of the team’s full-time bow next year with its Acura ARX-05 DPi. That car has tested so far but was not going to be the one utilized next week.

This will be Penske’s first sports car race since its GRAND-AM Rolex Series season in 2009, and the team last ran Petit Le Mans in 2008.

BRASELTON, GA – OCTOBER 04: Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves (C) drivers the #5 LMP2 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder celebrate with second place team mates Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas (L) and third place Sascha Maassen, Emmanuel Collard and Patrick Long (R) after winning the LMP2 Class during the American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans on October 4, 2008 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

Somewhat surprisingly this will be Montoya’s Petit Le Mans debut, while Castroneves is a past winner in a Penske Porsche RS Spyder in 2008 (above) and Pagenaud has a wealth of experience in the race in Acura and HPD prototypes, and raced last year with Whelen Engineering Racing and co-drivers Dane Cameron and Eric Curran in the Action Express Racing team’s Corvette DP.

This run comes after Castroneves sustained an accident last week in testing at Road Atlanta, and meant the team’s chassis got rebuilt.

“We’ve had this race on our radar for some time, but we wanted to wait until we were able to get our drivers some testing at Road Atlanta prior to committing, as it is a very fast track and these cars are very different to drive from an IndyCar,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric.

“Unfortunately, we confirmed this the hard way as we have had to totally rebuild our car after an incident during testing last week.  ORECA have bent over backwards to be sure we receive everything we need as they understand the importance of this race as our team prepares for the debut of our Acura ARX-05s at the Daytona 24.

“Juan has participated in the majority of our prototype tests since we announced him as one of our full-time Acura drivers. We would also like to involve our other drivers in the program whenever possible.  Helio and Simon have good experience in prototypes at Road Atlanta, so they seem like a natural fit to participate in the Petit for us.”