Pagenaud impresses his new engineer at Meyer Shank Racing

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Pagenaud, 2016 IndyCar champion and 2019 Indy 500 winner, has joined former teammate Helio Castroneves at MSR, after seven years with Team Penske. He was associated with engineer Mothersead, who is himself new to the team, having left the team with which MSR maintains a technical relationship, Andretti Autosport.

Mothersead’s highlight with Michael Andretti’s team was guiding Takuma Sato to victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 2017. Now he thinks he and Pagenaud are enjoying the move to a smaller squad.

“It’s good, it’s a lot of fun,” he told Motorsport.com after their first day of testing together Monday at Sebring. “Simon is pretty much over the moon, he loves it, comes back in a small team – a few friends and family!”

“He really appreciates the Honda side of the world, and the car isn’t too bad compared to where it was. It’s a good, refreshing change for him. It’s like Jimmy Buffett’s song, “Changes in latitude, changes in attitude…” and I think for both of us it’s kind of like that. It’s a nice change.

“Mike Shank is a great guy and he surrounded himself with great people. Coming from a great team, the pool is not as deep but the talent is high level and the enthusiasm is contagious. It’s also nice to have Helio around – he would make anyone’s day brighter!

“I think Simon thinks it’s more like going back to where he was with Schmidt Peterson [the team now evolved into Arrow McLaren SP, where Pagenaud drove 2012-’14]. He finds it more open, less corporate, and you can have more fun doing it, so it’s like a breath of fresh air for him.

“The beauty of the arrangement, the technical partnership with Andretti, is that we continue to work with these drivers and engineers and that there are constant conversations between the two teams. We all try to make the best cars possible. .

“But we’re the ‘Skunk Works’ aside: all the benefits of being part of a great band without the drawbacks. We can go to our own little lab and do whatever we need to do.

Mothersead’s most prestigious moment – the design of the # 26 Andretti Autosport-Honda with which Takuma Sato claimed Michael Andretti’s most recent Indy 500 victory.

Photo By: Scott R LePage / Motorsport Images

Considering Pagenaud’s 10 years in IndyCar, one year in Champ Car and three full seasons in the American Le Mans Series – as well as his meticulous and analytical nature – it is not surprising to learn that Mothersead was impressed with the comments. of the 37-year-old Frenchman. .

“Oh yeah, he’s excellent,” he said. “It reminds me of working with Michele Alboreto at Scandia in 1996. I was blown away by Michele – I thought, ‘How can you have so much time to think while you’re driving the car so fast? I remember telling him how the weight jacker worked, actually discussing it with him while racing at Disney World in 1996. [the first ever Indy Racing League race].

“Well, it’s the same with Simon. He’ll come back and say, ‘I didn’t get it all, but there’s this, this and this…’ I’ll be, ‘Whoah! How do you remember that ?! ‘

“Nothing against other drivers that I have worked with, but some of them will try to describe the behavior of the car in different braking zones, and honestly you can tell they don’t know what was going on. . They say to me, “I passed Jesus and I have no idea what happened after that… but I made the turn, so that’s good, isn’t it ?! “Meanwhile, Simon may report a strange whistle when he brakes. I mean, I wouldn’t have thought it would be something he could pay attention to, but yeah, apparently he had plenty of time to think about it.

Regarding the test itself, Mothersead was happy with the job done, although bad weather shortened the day before the shot at the unofficial lap record around Sebring, a record of 50.7 seconds set by new half-teammate Alexander. Rossi four years ago. .

“For us, the test was a reset to 101 – kind of a ‘get to know the track’ day,” Mothersead said. “In this regard, everything went perfectly. We had rain at the end, which cut us short; I would have liked to do a few more laps and reduce the lap time in the Alex style, despite the track conditions which are not perfect.

“But it was a good day. We spent a lot of time working on system type stuff, getting ready for St. Pete. We didn’t even really try in terms of lap times, but what we did came quite easily, naturally enough. And Simon is still unfolding a lot of parts in our car compared to where he has been. Everything from the powertrain components to the basic chassis setup. Everything is very different for him.

“But we still walked off the track thinking, OK, we can get something out of this.”

Mothersead said he is confident there will be enough crossover in setup preferences between Pagenaud and Castroneves to move Meyer Shank Racing forward in the coming season.

“Yes, I think so,” he replied. “I would bring Simon’s style closer to Alex and Colton [Herta] are in terms of preferences. He is quite aggressive with the car. Helio too, but in a different way. Simon is more aggressive when entering a turn, how he attacks the braking zone, and Helio is more aggressive when coming back to the accelerator when exiting.

“But they’re not far enough apart for that to be a problem. There may be a few preference things that wouldn’t translate from one driver’s style to another. But when you talk about the general package, what we have as a basic car setup at MSR, they’ll work great together.

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