Team Penske has confirmed that it will enter an ORECA 07-Gibson in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar season finale – the 20th Anniversary Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta – next weekend as part of its preparations for its full attack on the series with Acura in 2018.
Veteran Team Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud will share driving duties in the 10-hour endurance event with the team.
The Petit entry gives the team a chance to have a full-race weekend under its belt prior to debuting the Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International at the 2018 season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January.
“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.”
Castroneves just wrapped up his 18th Verizon IndyCar Series season with Team Penske, where he finished fifth in the race and fourth in the series point standings. In addition to his IndyCar background, Castroneves has also made five starts for Team Penske in sports car competition, producing two poles, three podium finishes and a class victory in the 2008 Petit Le Mans event.
“It will be fun to work with Juan again,” said Castroneves. “The car is a blast to drive as it has lots of power and an incredible amount of downforce. The last time I ran at Petit, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the winning team in our class. It was one of the highlights of my career. Now, I’m looking forward to that challenge again and I’m sure it will be fun racing with these guys in this setting.”
Along with his open-wheel experience, Pagenaud has a vast background in sports car competition. He earned 10 American Le Mans Series wins between 2009 and 2013, including a class win in the 2010 Petit Le Mans while racing for Acura. Pagenaud also earned four wins while driving for Peugeot – including two at Spa and two at Silverstone – and is a former pole-sitter for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s a bit of a homecoming to get back into a prototype car,” said Pagenaud, whose recent win at the Sonoma IndyCar race led to a second-place finish in the championship behind Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.
“They are great cars to drive and to be paired with Juan and Helio in an endurance event is going to be a lot of fun. This is a chance for me to help Team Penske prepare for next year, while seeing what things we can learn and where we can improve right now.”
This news brings the total number of cars on the Petit Le Mans entry to 39. Read about the rest of the field with our entry summary HERE >>
The 20th Anniversary Petit Le Mans is set for Saturday, October 7 at the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta track.