Sam Schmidt Motorsports has confirmed the worst-kept secret in IndyCar, announcing Simon Pagenaud will pilot the SSM entry in the 2012 IndyCar Series.
The Frenchman, a former Champ Car Atlantics champion, has several years of full-time and part-time open wheel experience and competed in three IndyCar races this season, substituting for Ana Beatriz at Barber, Justin Wilson at Mid-Ohio and Simona De Silvestro at Infineon (pictured, above).
Previously, Pagenaud raced for Team Australia in the final full season of Champ Car in 2007, finishing eighth in points that season. Over the last few years, Pagenaud has plied his craft in the American Le Mans Series for a number of teams, winning the championship in 2010 with co-driver David Brabham.
The announcement was a reunification of sorts for Pagenaud, as he will again be paired with Rob Edwards, his engineer who guided Pagenaud to his Atlantic championship in 2006. Speaking alongside Schmidt, Pagenaud said “I am delighted to be joining the IZOD Indy Car Series full-time with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Honda. 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.”
Sam Schmidt Motorsports will be running a Honda engine for Pagenaud, and although work is underway into sourcing funding for a second full-time entry, the team will likely run a second car at Indianapolis in May.
[Article text by Matt Lennon; images via Motorsport]