Gil de Ferran has revealed that he will team up with Champ Car refugee Simon Pagenaud and sponsor Panasonic for his first assault on the American Le Mans Series as an owner-driver later this season.

The former Indy 500 winner and two-time CART champion used the Long Beach round of the ALMS to announce the next stage in the development of de Ferran Motorsports, which was launched earlier this year to become the fourth Acura-powered team on the LMP2 grid.

The veteran team owner will team up with 23-year old former Champ Car Atlantic champion Pagenaud for the remainder of the season, starting at the fourth round - the Larry H Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by Grand & Little Hotels. de Ferran also announced that he was in the process of completing a sponsorship contract with Panasonic, which will see the electronics giant use its association with the team to promote a relationship with Acura and the ELS Surround premium audio system.

"Considering this started as a conversation about a potential race team only a few months ago, it is quite emotional to witness what has happened and see it become reality," de Ferran admitted, "I was in the workshop last week and all our mechanics, engineers and technicians were there. In all, we had more than 20 people working incredibly hard inside a facility which, a couple of months ago, was just an empty building. Now, not only have we begun testing, but we have also gained the support of an internationally recognised company like Panasonic, and secured Simon as our driver - all major endorsements for our nascent team."

The de Ferran Motorsports' iconic red, white and blue-liveried Acura hit the track in testing for the first time at Sebring earlier this week, and the team will be back at the Florida airfield circuit for an additional session with both de Ferran and Pagenaud behind the wheel before making its race debut on 18 May.

Frenchman Pagenaud joins de Ferran Motorsports after competing for Walker Racing/Team Australia in the 2007 Champ Car World Series. Despite finishing eighth overall in his rookie season, however, Pagenaud was unable to find a berth in the unified IndyCar Series this season, and has been linked to several sportscar rides on either side of the Atlantic.

"Simon has a very good reputation in the industry, and this was the first thing that attracted me to him," de Ferran said, "This goes beyond just his on-track results, which, of course, have been very impressive. It is about the overall package - how he works with the team, his work ethic, fitness, how he works with sponsors, etc."

Pagenaud, who will become the youngest driver in the Acura American Le Mans Series line-up, is delighted with his employment.

"I am really thrilled to be given this opportunity," he enthused, "It is not every day that a two-time CART champion and Indy 500 winner calls and says he wants you to be his co-driver. At this stage of my career, it is an outstanding opportunity and I can't wait for the first race.

"I am so proud to be part of the Acura family. I have been looking for a chance like this for a long time, and being part of a manufacturer programme is just outstanding. Going ahead, the future looks very bright, but it will be up to me to do a good job and repay the faith that Gil and Acura have bestowed on me."

Acura debuted in the American Le Mans Series last year, taking a class victory first time out at the Sebring 12 Hours, and expands to a four-car entry with the arrival of de Ferran Motorsports. de Ferran, however, is no stranger to the Honda/Acura family, having won both of his CART championships with Honda power and, more recently, having been based in the UK as the sporting director for the Honda F1 Racing team.

"Gil de Ferran's association with our racing programmes goes back more than a decade," confirmed executive vice-president John Mendel, "His expertise as a driver, and now as a team owner, will bring numerous and immeasurable benefits to the Acura American Le Mans Series effort. We look forward to witnessing many successful results from the de Ferran Motorsports team in the coming months and years."

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