Simon Pagenaud: “It was a shock” during the first tests with Meyer Shank Racing

After seven years with Penske, Simon Pagenaud, the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 2019, joined Meyer Shank Racing this winter. On Monday, on the Florida track of Sebring, the 37-year-old driver was able to complete the first of his two days of testing before the start of the season (February 27 in St Petersburg, Florida). He returned to these first laps and the studious off-season he experienced.

« These first tests, were they a » human « grip to get to know your team or technique with the car?
Both were human and technical at the same time! There are working philosophies that are drastically different from Penske. I also discovered a new car, a new engine, a use of different tires. I learn how they are used, which part breaks down first etc. I had to adapt my driving to this new package which was very different. It was a shock, I was very surprised because the original, it is the same chassis and the same category. Basically the performance is the same but the handling of the car is very different. I did not sweep everything in one day because there is a lot to do, to think about but it was a very good grip, pleasant. The package enchanted me.

Did you also take advantage of the winter to visit the headquarters of your new team in Columbus (Ohio)?
Yes, and my first day at the factory was the week they moved into the new premises. It was appropriate, so we came together (to smile). I realized that it’s a team that grows very quickly even if it remains in quotes because they took the time before getting there. And there are big partners behind. It reminds me of my time at Schmidt-Peterson (where he played from 2012 to 2014 obtaining three victories) but with more resources here. There is enormous potential.

« Personally, I prefer to focus on the Indycar but it will depend on the team »

And what work is done in the factory even before the tests?
During my visit, we prepared the car, saw how I was going to get into it, all the procedures behind the wheel, the alarms in order to organize all that. It took a few days. And then there are the simulator sessions (on the Honda one in Indianapolis) to understand the engine and the tools you can work with. The engine behaves really differently from what I have experienced (Penske drives a Chevrolet). It takes time to adapt. I was also able to find out who I was going to work with. It had been ten years since I had changed engineers so there I did a full day on the simulator with him to get to know each other in terms of rhythm, communication …

We also recently learned that you will continue to do a little endurance and participate in the 24 Hours of Daytona (IMSA) at the end of the month with the Meyer Shank Racing again.
Yes, that was part of the discussions with MSR but let’s say that there were contractual obligations that make things decided and signed at a certain time. (contracts, like the one between him and Penske, are generally from January 1 to December 31). It happened at that time. For the other IMSA events, it’s not decided yet, I’m just on Daytona which is perfect for getting into the rhythm of the season. Sebring (2nd stage of the IMSA calendar held the day before the second race of the Indycar season), it’s hot since it’s the same weekend as Texas (an oval). Personally, I prefer to focus on the Indycar but it will depend on the team. « 

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