Simon Pagenaud, the 2019 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, unveiled his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy today in Paris, the capital city of his native France, the first time the race winner’s likeness has debuted outside of the U.S.
Pagenaud’s likeness is the 106th face to be permanently fixed to the trophy. Pagenaud was the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion, has 14 career NTT IndyCar Series race wins and is the fifth French-born driver to win the Indianapolis 500. He captured the 103rd edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“For a race car driver, having your likeness live on forever is like a writer when they publish a book,” Pagenaud said. “It’s your book. It’s going to stay. That is why this race is so important. Your image, the way you looked when you won, is going to stay forever on that legendary trophy. It’s very special.”
Pagenaud, 35, was born in Montmorillon, about 220 miles southwest of Paris, in central-western France. He is visiting his hometown with the Borg-Warner Trophy this week during a promotional tour that also included unveiling the trophy today in Paris and visiting the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 4 in Budapest.
Among the guests present at the trophy unveiling was Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of IMS and INDYCAR.
BorgWarner commissioned the creation of the iconic, 110-pound sterling silver trophy in 1935 to honor winners of the Indianapolis 500. The first driver to be awarded the trophy was Louis Meyer, who in 1936 was presented with the trophy featuring the previous 24 winner’s faces. The trophy is an integral part of the annual Indianapolis 500 tradition. Drivers from 21 U.S. states and 12 countries are represented on the trophy.
Creating a sterling silver three-dimensional likeness of Pagenaud’s face takes skill and talent. To design the image, sculptor William Behrends, who has been crafting faces which adorn the trophy since 1990, conducts a multi-phase process.
That process starts the day after the race where a 360-degree series of headshots are taken of the winner. Next, an in-studio session takes place where Pagenaud poses while Behrends works on a full-scale clay model of his face to better capture Pagenaud’s personality. The life-size clay model is then used as a three-dimensional reference for the creation of the smaller clay image, which is perfected in polysulfide rubber and plaster, among a series of other processes, to refine the face and capture even the smallest smile line, scar or forehead wrinkle.
Eventually, the image is cast in wax, cleaned and sent to a jeweler to transform the image from wax to sterling silver. Once that is complete, Behrends polishes, buffs and refines the image before affixing it to the Borg-Warner Trophy.
The permanent home of the 5 feet, 4-3/4 inches tall trophy is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Drivers receive a keepsake trophy, the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy (also known as the “Baby Borg”), a miniature replica of the famous trophy, with an exact copy of their sterling silver image mounted to it. BorgWarner will present Pagenaud with his Baby Borg later this year.
In addition to the driver receiving a miniature replica of the Borg-Warner Trophy, the team owner also receives a mini replica of the trophy, the BorgWarner Championship Team Owner’s Trophy®. 2019 is a historic year for this trophy, as Roger Penske’s Team Penske adds to its already record-setting number of Indianapolis 500 team wins, with Penske earning his 18th BorgWarner Championship Team Owner’s trophy in 2019.
Pagenaud is third in NTT IndyCar Series points heading to next week's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, which can be seen on NBCSN on Aug. 18 at 2:30 p.m. This story will be updated.