Roger Penske remains a living legend in the motorsport world, having celebrated over 500 victories in motorsport with Team Penske. But a number of factors have contributed to his success over the years, and our Annual Motoring Dinner on February 21st will be a celebration of the man, the minds and the machines which have made Penske such an unstoppable force.
Penske PC-23 in the Rotunda
When Roger arrives at the Club in February, he will certainly feel at home when he sees a Penske PC23 car sitting proudly in the rotunda on the night of his Annual Motoring Dinner. A version of the P23 competed in the 1994 IndyCar season with Penske Racing and, later, the 1995 IndyCar season. Designed by Nigel Bennett who based its design on the 1993 PC22, the PC23 marked a huge leap forward for Penske’s cars. As a result, it became one of the most successful open wheel race cars ever developed, winning both the 1994 CART season and the 1994 Indianapolis 500 with Al Unser Jr, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy taking 12 wins in 16 races. The car helped the drivers race to 10 pole positions and 28 podium finishes in a season which saw Penske take the Constructor’s Cup, and the Manufacturer’s Cup.
Ilmor; Engineering Success
Ilmor Engineering, a British independent race engine manufacturer, produced the Mercedes unit that drives the PC23 for Team Penske. In celebration of Penske’s Annual Motoring Dinner, the Club is delighted to welcome Ilmor co-founder Mario Illien and Patrick Morgan, son of co-founder Paul Morgan, to the event. Paul and Mario founded Ilmor engineering in 1983 and their production of specialist power units has made them the leading independent producers of race engines for over thirty years. With the special edition 1,000 bhp Mercedes-Benz engine, Ilmor played a huge part in Penske’s successes.
Penske Racers and Motorsport Stars
Alongside the cars and co-workers of Penske, we’re delighted to welcome those who raced either with or against him to the Club’s Annual Motoring Dinner.
A driver who knows the force of Penske only too well is four-time IndyCar Series champion and three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Dario Franchitti. Franchitti was to win his first IndyCar championship on his second attempt at racing in the series, with the win being decided by a final race against Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe. He retained the championship in 2010 after a final race win over Penske’s Will Power, and continued to compete fiercely against Penske’s teams throughout his career.
Perhaps less well known to motorsport fans is Penske’s brief spell as a Formula 1 team during the 1970s. After sponsoring McLaren at the end of the 1971 Formula 1 season, Penske announced his intention to join the sport in earnest and in 1973 he bought facilities in the UK and employed a team at Poole in Dorset to begin work on his entry vehicle. By 1974 he was ready to compete in his first Grand Prix in the Penske PC1 in Canada. Mark Donohue was to be his first driver, competing under Penske throughout 1974 and 1975. After Donohue’s tragic death at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, John Watson took over in the driving seat for Penske.
Recently confirmed as an attendee for the evening, Club member Watson raced three Penske cars, the PC1, 3 and 4. It was in the PC4 where Watson brought Penske his only Formula 1 win in Austria in 1976. To this day the win at the Österreichring remains the most recent American team win in a Formula 1 race.
Hosting the evening will be renowned broadcaster and journalist Simon Taylor, a well-known face to the Club and indeed Roger, who he interviewed in 2010 for Motor Sport magazine.