Simon Pagenaud has signed a contract with Patron Highcroft for 2010 to replace Scott Sharp who previously left the team to start his own GT2 team. Simon will partner with David Brabham in the newly revised Acura ARX-01c LMP2 car.
This will give Patron Highcroft a very impressive driver pairing. David Brabham is one of the most talented and experienced sportscar drivers of this generation. Teaming him with a very quick and capable Pagenaud only spells wins for the team. Especially since Pagenaud is a more reliable and less erratic driver than the man he is replacing.
This brings up a few questions in my mind though. First on the list is that Pagenaud left his seat at Gil de Ferran’s team where he had been racing for the past two seasons. Gil de Ferran had previously announced his intent to start a two car IndyCar program next year and Simon’s name had been linked to that program on many occasions. So why would Simon leave?
A couple of possibilities. He may not have liked the idea of driving an IndyCar on ovals, but his past CCWS experience and IndyCar tests seem to indicate he would be interested in a ride in IndyCar. A more likely scenario is that he needed to secure a seat for 2010 because both the IndyCar and ALMS program at Gil de Ferran’s team is currently questionable as no announcements have been made by either program.
The next question to be brought up is that Patron Highcroft is switching back to Acura’s LMP2 car after running the inaugural season of the LMP1 effort in 2009. This would definitely be the flagship team for Acura’s LMP2 car since Fernandez shuttered his team which won the LMP2 championship in 2009 with the Acura ARX-01b. This begs the question if anybody will be running the Acura LMP1.
We certainly will find out more in the coming months, but this move makes me question if De Ferran will be involved in ALMS for 2010, despite his statements to the contrary. Now with no drivers on board since Gil retired and the supposed start of a new IndyCar effort for 2010, Gil may join Fernandez in closing the sportscar operations. Especially since Acura chose not to develop the LMP1 car at all last year after finding out that Audi was not going to compete for the full season in ALMS. If Gil had any desire to compete at Le Mans, he would have to pick a different horse.