Pagenaud completes Highcroft line-up
French ace Simon Pagenaud has been confirmed as part of Highcroft Racing’s driver line-up for next week’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring – reuniting last year’s ALMS championship driver line-up.
Pagenaud will join his regular partners David Brabham and Marino Franchitti aboard the HPD ARX-01e - the new LMP1 machine set to be shaken down at Sebring this weekend.
Pagenaud joined Highcroft for the first time last season and helped the team to three overall victories, a Petit Le Mans LMP2 class win and the overall championship.
“It is fantastic news that we are all back together as a team,” Pagenaud said.
“Sebring is such an important race and I am very excited to be back with Highcroft, David and Marino and to be powered by a Honda engine again.
“It should be a very interesting race and I can’t wait to drive the new HPD ARX-01e.”
Pagenaud, Brabham and Franchitti have all completed development miles this week on the Wirth Research simulator in preparation for the Sebring race which will not only double as the opening round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron, but also the opening race of the ACO’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
The new LMP1 HPD entry will be one of a host of new prototype machines developed for the revised Le Mans-style rules for 2011.
“The regulation changes are going to be very interesting and the guys at HPD and Wirth Research have done a fantastic job with the car,” Pagenaud said.
“The original package from LMP2 was an extremely reliable car and I think with more horsepower and wider Michelin tires, we should be in good shape.
“The LMP1 car is heavier and everyone’s downforce levels are reduced, but I am certainly looking forward to trying the car for real.
“I can’t wait to get back on track. I got a great reaction from the fans from winning the championship last year both in the US, and back home in France.
“I have been home in France for the past few weeks and there have been so many people asking me about Sebring and the new Highcroft/HPD car – there is a lot of excitement about it.”
The #01 Highcroft Racing HPD ARX-01e was revealed yesterday with the team’s long-time tire team partner joining forces with the Danbury, CT-based squad to promote the new MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire.
At Sebring in 2010, Highcroft held a large lead in the LMP2 class at Sebring before a small electrical fire delayed the team during a pit stop and pushed them back to second place.
Pagenaud had his first race with Highcroft 12 months ago at the Florida venue and team owner, Duncan Dayton believes the Frenchman’s skills continue to be on the rise a year later.
“We were thrilled to be able to sign Simon last season because everything we had seen the previous year when he was at de Ferran indicated he was very fast and was going to be a great addition to our team,” Highcroft Racing boss Duncan Dayton said.
“Every time he gets in the car he seems to get better and better which is a big thing to say because he is already at a very high level.
“To watch him develop over the course of last season was just extraordinary and I was particularly pleased that we were able to get him his first sportscar championship in a Highcroft car.
“Both our team and Simon have big ambitions for the future in both sportscar and open wheel racing and we hope last year’s title is the first of many for both of us.”
Dayton is delighted to return to Sebring this season with the same driver line-up for the first time.
In 2010, all three drivers scored pole positions and race victories – a first for the American Le Mans Series.
“Simon, David and Marino work so seamlessly together. They don’t need a seat insert, their driving styles are similar, they like the car set up the same and they can all make decisions at any time that all the others will have complete confidence in.
“I am really fortunate to have what I consider the best driver line-up in the ALMS, if not the world.
“I am delighted to have them all back and it is an honor and a privilege to work with them again.”