Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today a partnership with Frenchman Didier Calmels, owner of Calmels Sport, and driver Tristan Gommendy for an entry in the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May 2018.
Gommendy, of Le Chesnay, France, will pilot a blue, white and red No. 77 Honda, in honor of his native country. Gommendy, 38, currently competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship and finished third overall at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. He drove 11 Indy car races in the 2007 Champ Car World Series season for PKV Racing, capturing the pole position at Mont Tremblant, Canada, and finishing a season-best fourth at Assen, The Netherlands.
"Competing in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true; it was a career goal when I was racing in Champ Car,” Gommendy said. “Even though I grew up driving open-wheel cars, everything is completely new when you get to Indy. The (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway and this race demand a lot of respect. Racing at 230 mph with four 90-degree 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."
Calmels helped found a Formula One team in 1987. The partnership with SPM comes with major support from French television throughout the month of May, with coverage on Canal+ (the broadcast partner for Verizon IndyCar Series races in France), Infosport+ and C8, as well as a 52-minute documentary about the creation of the Calmels Sport INDYCAR program airing on Canal+ a week prior to the 2018 Indy 500.
"Ric and I are pleased to announce this partnership with Didier Calmels,” said Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports along with Ric Peterson. “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,” Schmidt added. “In addition, SPM has already shown results with French drivers such as (Simon) Pagenaud and (Tristan) 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."
Gommendy is expected to participate in an oval test in October.