The 19-year-old Barbadian-born Caymanian will make the jump to the IndyCar Series for 2024, driving one of the five entries for CGR.
As part of the process to maximize his preparation, a month-long testing gauntlet that was put forth by CGR Managing Director Mike Hull, which also includes driving a previous generation F2 car, World Series machinery and concluding with some IndyCar running.
Alex Lynn, one of the full-season WEC drivers for the Cadillac program and who recently teamed with Simpson to win the European Le Mans Series LMP2 title, helped set up and shake down the car for Simpson. Although morning running was limited, Simpson was able to log 42 laps around the 3.363-mile, 15-turn circuit, with a best of 1m51.380s.
“It was a lot of fun, honestly,” Simpson said. “I thought it was a really cool car to drive and a new experience for me. This is a very high-tech car, which was a lot of learning. But it was a great experience, and I’m thankful to GM and Chip Ganassi Racing for giving me this opportunity.
“This drives a lot more like a GT car (compared to LMP2), and I found that really interesting. They have a lot of power, so it gets up to speed quickly. I think the team is quite happy with it. I think Nico (Varrone, who also tested the Cadillac V-Series.R) and I were able to notice some things that the drivers who drive this all the time just kind of get accustomed to. I think that was a big thing for the Ganassi guys. Hopefully, they can take that information and improve the car for next year.”
Varrone, who drove 44 laps on the day, was the 2024 WEC endurance driver for the Corvette GTE program that won the class in the centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans on the way to claiming the GTE title.
The WEC test for Simpson, who joined CGR as a development driver in May 2022, is the latest part of a versatile year. He competed the previous two seasons in Indy NXT, earning one pole and two podiums this past year in 13 races with HMD Motorsports. In addition to his ELMS success, he also captured victory in the IMSA SportsCar Championship’s 12 Hours of Sebring while co-driving with Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin. Lastly, he claimed one win and finished third in the overall championship in the Asian Le Mans Series with Algarve Pro Racing.
Other notables to participate in the WEC Rookie Test include IMSA regulars Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth, along with WEC LMP2 and Indy NXT driver Josh Pierson.
All three drove Toyota Gazoo Racing’s #7 GR010 Hybrid. Barnicoat ran 37 laps and put down the best time among the trio with a 1m50.740s. Pierson followed with a 1m51.085 after 32 laps, while Hawksworth’s 41 laps served up a best of 1m51.316s.