Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced Simon Pagenaud will drive for the team in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. The team confirmed the signing at Indianapolis' IMIS trade show. Pagenaud had long been rumored for the seat after testing with the team at Mid-Ohio earlier this year.
The 27-year-old Frenchman drove in three races in 2011, all as last-minute substitutes for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and HVM Racing, borrowing various pieces of equipment to accommodate him.
“I am delighted to be joining the IZOD Indy Car Series full-time with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Honda,” Pagenaud said. “The series represents the most competitive racing in the world right now, and I am really looking forward to the challenge of racing in a single-seater again. I have to thank Sam Schmidt Motorsports for giving me the opportunity and to continue with the Honda engineers at HPD. It is the best situation I could wish for.”
It marks his first full season in open-wheel since Pagenaud advanced into Champ Car in 2007 with Team Australia, a year after winning the Atlantic championship.
Pagenaud then went on to success in sports cars, running full-time in the American Le Mans Series with Gil de Ferran for two seasons and Highcroft Racing in 2010, the last year winning the LMP class championship.
A hodgepodge 2011 saw Pagenaud take a variety of rides, with three IndyCar starts, one in ALMS with Highcroft's once-utilized new P1-spec HPD ARX-01e, several Intercontinental Le Mans Cup starts for Peugeot and several races in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Pagenaud finished second at both Sebring and Le Mans.
Schmidt expanded on Pagenaud's technical setup ability and his Honda ties as key to the signing.
“We are very fortunate to land a driver of Simon's caliber for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season,” Schmidt said. “As all the teams work to develop the new cars and engines, his diverse experience will be invaluable to us. Simon has a strong relationship with Honda and its engineers, which is also a huge asset. This is a big day for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.”
Schmidt ran a second car with a paying driver the second half of 2011, in conjunction with AFS Racing, and is believed to be exploring a similar option for 2012. Pagenaud's car number and sponsorship package will be announced at a later date.