By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has confirmed that a third entry for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be a partnership with French team, Calmels Sport, and will feature pilot Tristan Gommendy.
The 38-year-old Frenchman last raced in America during the Champ Car era in 2007 with PKV Racing before moving back to Europe to compete in multiple junior formula series. The chance to drive in next year’s Indy 500 will also be his first on an oval, having spent the past several seasons competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, placing third overall at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Competing in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true; it was a career goal when I was racing in Champ Car,” said Gommendy, via a team release.
“Even though I grew up driving open-wheel cars, everything is completely new when you get to Indy. The Speedway and this race demand a lot of respect. Racing at 230 mph with four 90° turns is far from the European motorsport culture. I know I’ll have to work very hard to get ready for next May. The first steps, including my first simulator test, went well, but much more work needs to be done. Everything so far has shown me that this partnership between Calmels Sport and SPM is extraordinary. In the United States, everything is possible … provided you earn your spot. It’s up to us to write a beautiful French story in Indiana!”
For his part, co owner Sam Schmidt was excited at the growing opportunity with the French team’s owner, Didier Calmels.
“Ric (Peterson) and I are pleased to announce this partnership with Didier Calmels,” said Schmidt.
”Compared to him, we are relative newcomers to team ownership but have similar backgrounds of success in the business world. We look forward to learning a tremendous amount from Didier regarding the business of racing and his innovative approaches which have resulted in great success in European formulas. In addition, SPM has already shown results with French drivers such as Pagenaud and Vautier, so we look forward to having the talented and experienced Tristan Gommendy join our team for 2018. He has a similar background to Simon, so we have very high expectations.”
Earlier this year, SPM followed a similar path in bringing Tony Stewart’s Team One Cure, which prompted the longtime return of Jay Howard.
The partnership is also said to extend in “major support” during the month of May from French television with a presence on three leading networks on Canal +, Infosport + and C8.
Gommendy is expected to begin work later this year in an oval test in October.