Monterey, CA (July 14, 2011) – What does an American Le Mans Series champion and open-wheel driver do on an “off” weekend? Why, he finds a way to go racing with HPD, of course!
Simon Pagenaud – former Champ Car regular, reigning ALMS champion, sometime IndyCar driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans contender in 2011 – had a break in his busy calendar last weekend, and he took that opportunity to race an HPD-developed Honda Civic Si at the Laguna Seca round of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Previously, Pagenaud had sampled both the Honda B-Spec Fit and hybrid Honda CR-Z at last December’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill NASA endurance race. Now, it was time to try out the Civic, run by twice-champion Compass360 Racing and teamed with series regular Ryan Eversley.
It wasn’t a “storybook” weekend for the pair – a red flag in qualifying meant they started near the rear of the grid, 26th, in their #75 Skunk2/Honda Performance Development/Racing4Research Honda; and a hard charge through the field netted a sixth-place finish – but Pagenaud thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“The Civic was a lot of fun to drive,” Pagenaud said. “I was pleased to hand the car over to Ryan in good shape and watch him finish well, which was crucial for his championship chances.”
The result keeps both Eversley and Compass360 second in the driver and team championship standings, with two races remaining. Pagenaud enjoyed his weekend with the team.
"I have to give a big thanks to [team owner] Karl [Thomson] and his team. They made me feel incredibly welcome and I spent a great weekend of racing with them,” Pagenaud recounted. “The racing is brilliant. It is bumper-to-bumper out there with 54 cars, so you are constantly fighting with other drivers.”
Pagenaud has sampled Honda-powered racing cars at both ends of the competitive spectrum, from the entry-level Fit to pinnacle Indy cars and sports prototypes. He finds similarities throughout.
"Through the range of Honda-powered cars I have driven in recent years the Indy car and the HPD ARX-01e sports car are very similar in speed and driving style.
“The Honda Civic can be found at your [local] dealers, and with good preparation and HPD components on it, it then becomes a great race car, with a good amount of power and fantastic handling. We had some great battles this weekend with others brands like Mini, BMW, Mazda, Kia and Volkswagen.
"If you want to go road racing, Honda and HPD have a great range of options. I've driven the Honda Fit, the CR-Z hybrid and now the Civic: Those three cars are really great stepping stones for road racers.
"For the beginners, the best product out there remains the Honda Fit B Spec. For someone with just a bit more experience, I positively recommend the Honda Civic Si, where you can also race in some professional series like the Continental Tire Series and [SCCA] World Challenge.”
Pagenaud will continue to sample and race a variety of HPD performance products through the remainder of the year, including a Rallycross version of the B-Spec Fit, as well as a Honda-powered Formula F and kart.
“I am very excited to go dirt racing in the Rallycross for the first time,” he enthused. “It certainly is going to be a lot of fun, and is a discipline that is really rising. Personally, I have done a few rallys in France in the past, but this will be my first Rallycross event, and I am really looking forward to that."
The goal of Pagenaud’s participation in these events is to help HPD engineers develop better products for members of the Honda Racing Line.
"I really enjoy participating with the HPD engineers in the development of all these cars. Hopefully, my feedback can help both current and new Honda drivers. Honda and HPD really have a great range of options for competitors. I think you'll see young drivers come through the Honda system in karts and F1600 Formula F to rise into IndyCars and professional sports-car racing."
Pagenaud’s team at Laguna Seca, Canadian-based Compass360, fields four front-running Honda Civic Si's in Grand-Am's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, having won series Championships in 2010, 2009 and 2007. It also runs four more Honda Civic Si’s in SCCA World Challenge.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race from Laguna Seca will be televised, tape-delayed on SPEED July 17th at 1 p.m.