Simon Pagenaud has a pretty simple explanation for his two wins on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course: It feels like home.
“I really enjoy this track. It’s certainly the most advanced and safe, as well, track that we go to,” said Pagenaud, who joins Will Power as the only two drivers to win this race in its short four-year history. “It’s a lot of fun here. It’s very European-style racing, pretty flat track with very technical corner and medium-speed corners in Turn 4. It’s very similar to actually the track I grew up on in France, so I think that’s probably why I like this kind of technique, corners technique.”
Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais – whose past two races on the IMS road course ended prematurely with mechanical issues – said Thursday that the combination of the smoothness of the track, hot temperatures and the 2018 aero kit should draw the field more closer together than in past races.
“Because you trim and the fact that [the course is] very smooth, you end up running the lowest ride heights of the whole season for sure by quite a bit, so I’d say it definitely negates some of the sensitivity that the cars can have,” Bourdais said. “You can get the balance quite close here to where you really want it. And yeah, it’s — but it obviously is true for everybody, so it’s kind of a catch.
“And I think the temperatures being a lot hotter than we’ve seen compared to obviously the test where it was really cold, we had some decent track temp, but temperature-wise, we had a lot of downforce, so we could trim — I think we’ll end up seeing ourselves putting a lot of downforce back on the cars just to get the feel back.
Added Pagenaud: “I think like Seb said, the fact that there’s less bumps tightens the gap with everybody. Every car just behaves better because there’s less bumps, and as a driver you can also push the limits. So definitely it’s going to be pretty tight, I think, this weekend for everybody, like we saw at the test. But it’s definitely more fun to drive for us, even though it’s harder to make a difference.”
Both drivers believe the lower-downforce 2018 aero kit will improve previous years’ lack of passing – and will make for a tighter race.
“I think we’ve definitely seen the cars a lot less impacted following someone,” Bourdais said. “The draft is still pretty decent. So I think we’ll be in a position to put on a far better show than we have in the last couple of years.”
Four races into the season, Pagenaud thinks the IndyCar Grand Prix – the second consecutive road course on the schedule – will be the one where drivers start to get a handle on the car’s performance.
“The mechanical balance has changed quite a bit with the weight distribution forward. The cars are very different to drive,” he said. “In general, I think a lot of people haven’t found out yet what they need from their car to make it work, so I think we’re starting to be — we’re five races in, so people are starting to figure it out now, so I think it’s going to get tighter and tighter, and I think being such a universal product, I mean, it’s a spec series pretty much, everybody should be pretty close.”