Legendary race car owner Roger Penske plans to field two cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2018. Helio Castroneves, who currently drives for Penske in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is among the drivers rumored to be a possible driver for Penske next season in the SportsCar series. Penske responded to questions sent via email from Free Press sports writer George Sipple but did not respond to a question about why Castroneves would be interested in driving in SportsCar series.
What led to the interest in fielding a two-car IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program? “Team Penske has a long history of sports car competition and we have been looking for good opportunities to return to race in IMSA over the last few years. With the new DPi program in place in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, we felt this was the right time to get back on track and when we were able to form this partnership with Acura Motorsports and Honda Performance Development, it put all the pieces in place for us to return in 2018."
Why go back to SportsCar program after exiting in 2009? “Our team really has its roots and its heritage in sports car racing. It is where we first began competing in racing in the mid 1960s and where Penske Racing experienced its first success on track. So, we have always kept in close contact with sports car racing, even if we weren’t competing full-time, and certainly we had a strong program in place with the Porsche prototypes from 2005 through 2009. We wanted to see how the Prototype platform developed after Porsche moved on and we are excited about where the sport is headed now, as well as the partnership with Acura and HPD, to take us into the future."
How is the SportsCar program different from 2009? “We believe the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will have a very competitive and diverse field in 2018. It is a very exciting series now, but with the support of Acura and the DPi class continuing to grow next year, it is going to raise the bar even higher. We want to compete for overall race wins. That is our goal as we return to the series in 2018 and with several strong manufacturers involved to create more interest and more competition, we think the series and the DPi platform provides a great opportunity for Team Penske and our partners."
Why did you choose Acura Daytona Prototype internationals? “Our teams have had a good relationship with Honda Performance Development in the past in INDYCAR and we know their commitment to winning. We also know personally how dedicated Acura Motorsports is to its sports car program as we raced against them and battled for Prototype class championships in the American Le Mans Series. We are also partners with Acura and Honda through our Penske Automotive Group dealership business so we know them and they know us pretty well. It is a good partnership."
Why ORECA as chassis supplier? “ORECA is an experienced and trusted car constructor and they have a proven track record, not only in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, but internationally as well. We look forward to working with them as we continue to develop the Acura ARX-05 DPi car."
Who will be testing the cars and when/where will testing begin? “The plan is to begin testing the car in Europe before the end of the month and hopefully we will be able to get on track back here in the United States sometime in August."
When do you plan to announce the drivers and unveil the car? “We are working closely with our partners at Acura and HPD regarding the driver lineup. There are a lot of options out there and we are working through that process. We want to have the best possible lineup in place to have a competitive program when we hit the track. As far as the new DPi car, we are targeting to unveil it with the help of Acura and Honda at the prestigious Monterey Car Week coming up in August." George Sipple/Detroit Free Press