Simon Pagenaud starts every day off with a cup (or several) of coffee to awaken his senses, and the driver of the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car is in for a treat this weekend as he heads to Brazil for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300, where the best coffee in the world is grown.
Brazil produces around one-third of the world’s coffee, which should be enough to get Pagenaud through a race weekend.
“I’m not a morning person, and coffee really helps me get going when I’m groggy,” Pagenaud said. “I’ve heard it has amazing flavor and that it’s the best coffee in the world, so I can’t wait to try the real thing.”
After shipping race cars, tires, fuel and pit equipment to a different hemisphere, it is a safe bet that Pagenaud’s crew will be needing a strong cup of coffee as well.
“Logistics for this race are tough on the team, and it takes a lot of organization,” Pagenaud said. “I can’t even imagine all the work that goes into moving an entire race team such a long distance via ocean and air freight. The drivers definitely have it easier for this one because we just have to show up!”
Pagenaud’s teammate Tristan Vautier will make his debut in the Streets of Sao Paulo on the 2.536-mile course in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. The IZOD IndyCar Series rookie will be the only driver new to the circuit.
“Obviously I’ll have a little more work to do once we get to the track because I’m learning the track from scratch,” Vautier said. “I spent a little more time than usual watching different videos and talking with the team to try and be as prepared as I possibly can.”
Modifications have been made in Turns 1 and 2 of the track to widen the turns and create more opportunity for passing zones. And just as they would do to their famous Brazilian coffee beans, track officials have ground key bumps that caused issues for drivers in 2012.
“One of the most unique things about this circuit is the very long back straight,” Vautier said. “It’s hard to identify which parts will be the most challenging before I’ve run on the track, but it certainly looks bumpy in places which might be challenging.”
Rain is another element that seems to present itself every year in Brazil for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300, but Simon Pagenaud is looking forward to the chance to drive his No. 77 car to the front of the field through wet conditions.
“I love racing in the rain,” Pagenaud said. “It’s very different to dry conditions obviously and requires an entirely different skillset and mindset. You’re much more on the edge and anything can happen. It can either go very wrong or very right. We’ll see how it goes and be ready to adapt if we need to.”
Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier will take the green flag south of the equator for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 on Sunday, May 5. Live coverage begins at 11 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. Follow @SPMIndyCar for the latest team updates from practice, qualifications and the race.