Team Penske’s getting ultra-serious about their new Acura prototype run. Not only has it been spotted testing at Sebring, but they announced today that they will enter their drivers in an Oreca 07-Gibson LMP2 and race at Petit Le Mans this year. Just running one of IMSA’s most infamous races for experience, no big deal!
Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud—all of whom raced with Penske’s IndyCar side—will share the car at the ten-hour-long October 7 race.
It should be good experience for the team in an endurance race, not only because it’s a full ten-hour race ahead of the Acura’s debut at January’s 24 Hours of Daytona, but because the Acura is also based on the Oreca 07 chassis. We see what y’all did there, guys.
The team has been practicing with the global LMP2-spec Oreca in addition to the new Acura, and recently even borked the car in testing. Fortunately, chassis maker Oreca did them a major solid to get a car ready to compete at Petit Le Mans anyway. Team Penske President Tim Cindric explained in today’s announcement:
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. 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.
Cindric also insinuated that the selection of Castroneves and Pagenaud doesn’t mean they’re necessarily on the full-season team for next year, however, he does want to involve his drivers from other Penske racing efforts where possible:
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.
Pagenaud in particular won his class for Acura at Petit Le Mans in 2010.
For those of us who are bummed they’re not taking their Acura ride to Road Atlanta in October, there is footage of the new Acura testing at Sebring. Enjoy!
This year is the 20th anniversary for Petit Le Mans, and it hasn’t just wooed Penske over early. Rebellion Racing is will return to IMSA competition to race Petit Le Mans after logistical issues forced them out of racing the 6 Hours of the Glen earlier this year, reports Sportscar365. It should be fun.
UPDATE [12:38 p.m.]: We misinterpreted the news on which car was borked in practice based on the press release, so this has been clarified above. Per an IMSA representative, Team Penske’s plan was always to run the LMP2-spec Oreca instead of their new Acura.