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Pagenaud Will Make Best Of An Awkward Situation

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 8 2011

Frenchman and fellow IZOD IndyCar drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

It’s the old “not the best of circumstances” circumstance for veteran road racer Simon Pagenaud, but he’ll take it.

Pagenaud, a Frenchman who is a reigning American Le Mans Series champion, will make is IZOD IndyCar Series debut this weekend at the Honda Grand Peix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham.

He’ll do it in a car field by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. He’ll do it filling the seat of Ana Beatrix, who suffered a wrist injury during the series opener two-weeks ago in the race through the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to drive Bia’s No. 24 IndyCar this weekend,” Pagenaud said. “It’s an awkward situation and not the best for a driver to race in circumstances like this, but I wish her the best and hope she has a very quick recovery and I will work hard for a good finish for DRR, Bia and Ipiranga/Blazemaster.”

New to IndyCar, Pagenaud is hardly new to big time racing.

In 2006, after making his way through European formula racing, Pagenaud came to America and competed in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship with Walker Racing and was crowned the Champ Car Atlantic Champion, earning six podiums, 10 top-ten finishes, one pole, one victory in Edmonton and Rookie of the Year honors.

He moved to the Champ Car World Series with Team Australia/Walker Racing teaming up with

Simon Pagenaud drives through the Utah countryside in his ALMS car last year. (Photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)

current Team Penske driver, Will Power.  In 2007, Pagenaud finished 8th in points in what was a very consistent debut season in the Champ Car World Series, with three consecutive 4th place finishes.

After Champ Car folded, Pagenaud moved to the American Le Mans Series in 2008 co-driving the de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-01b LMP2 with former CART champion Gil de Ferran.  He finished 14th in the drivers standings.

In 2009, Pagenaud and de Ferran Motorsports took second place overall in the ALMS LMP1 class. Pagenaud and de Ferran earned 5 wins in 10 total races and 3 pole positions, turning the fastest lap of the ALMS weekend 6 times.  That year, Simon drove in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in LMP1 for Pescarolo Sport team in the Peugeot FAP 908.

Last year, Pagenaud moved over to the Patrón Highcroft racing team, replacing Scott Sharp to co-drive with Brabham in the ARX-01c in LMP1. Pagenaud and Brabham led the LMP1 class and won the 2010 Championship.  He also earned a seat driving for the factory French Peugeot team.

“I’ve been looking to get into IndyCar for several years and now is my chance, so I just have to say thank you to everyone for giving me the opportunity,” he said this week.

Pagenaud will jump into IndyCar at the unfamiliar Barber road course.

“I think it will be pretty straight forward,” he said. “I need to go to Barber with the approach to just learn and adapt.  It will be a great place to get my feet wet in an IZOD IndyCar and Barber Motorsports Park is a beautiful place to start.  I got some good advice from my mate Will Power and my main goal is to learn and just do my best.”

He will team up with another veteran from Europe, Justin Wilson.

Ana Beatriz to miss trip to Barber. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

“I’m really looking forward to a new weekend,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of ideas that we took from the test and I think that we will be right on pace.”

Wilson also damaged a wrist at St. Pete. Just not as serverely as did Beatriz.

“Obviously, my wrist will be a factor and hopefully I will be fine,” Wilson said. “I have a brace, which helps a lot and we will just have to take the weekend a step at a time.  I also have a new teammate this weekend, which I think will be good.  Obviously, we wish Bia was back in the car this weekend, but I’ve broken that bone before and it’s not fun.  I think she made the right decision to sit out and let it heal.  I hope that she has a speedy recovery.”

Beatriz had surgery on her injury last week.

Beatriz, 24, of Brazil, suffered the injury on Lap 5 of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27 when her car made contact with the No. 38 car driven by Graham Rahal. She remained in the car and advanced six positions to finish 14th.

“I could feel that my hand was sore and as the race went on it started to bother me more and I was in a lot of pain,” she said. “I was just focused and determined on finishing the race. I really wanted it knowing that I wasn’t 100 percent. Fortunately, I was able to finish the race and I got some good experience under my belt.

“It wasn’t until after the race that I realized that something was actually broken. I was pretty upset, but the team and the league have been great. I’m putting a lot of effort in being ready for Long Beach (April 17).”

Team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said, “We wanted to put Bia in the car for this race, but it’s more important that she heals properly and has a quick recovery. She’s working hard and headed down the right track so that she can be ready for Long Beach. While she recovers we are happy that Simon can fill in for her this weekend.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 8 2011
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