Earlier this week, Calmels Sport announced that they have secured a partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to run a third car with SPM for next May’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. Since, both sides have acknowledged the agreement and the plan is in place for Tristan Gommendy to race in next year’s big race.
Gommendy, of Le Chesnay, France, will pilot a blue, white and red No. 77 Honda, in honor of his native country, following completion of his Verizon IndyCar Series’ rookie orientation program. The 38-year-old, who currently competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship, captured a third-place finish overall at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and has previously competed in Champ Car, GP2, World Series by Renault, Formula Renault and French F3.
“Competing in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true; it was a career goal when I was racing in Champ Car,” noted Gommendy via a SPM release “Even though I grew up driving open-wheel cars, everything is completely new when you get to Indy. The Speedway and this race demand a lot of respect. Racing at 230 mph with four 90° turns is far from the European motorsport culture. I know I’ll have to work very hard to get ready for next May. The first steps, including my first simulator test, went well, but much more work needs to be done. Everything so far has shown me that this partnership between Calmels Sport and SPM is extraordinary. In the United States, everything is possible … provided you earn your spot. It’s up to us to write a beautiful French story in Indiana!”
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owner Sam Schmidt commented, “Ric and I are pleased to announce this partnership with Didier Calmels. Compared to him, we are relative newcomers to team ownership but have similar backgrounds of success in the business world. We look forward to learning a tremendous amount from Didier regarding the business of racing and his innovative approaches which have resulted in great success in European formulas. In addition, SPM has already shown results with French drivers such as Pagenaud and Vautier, so we look forward to having the talented and experienced Tristan Gommendy join our team for 2018. He has a similar background to Simon, so we have very high expectations.”
The partnership will also see major support on French television throughout the month of May with coverage on Canal +, Infosport + and C8, as well as a 52-minute documentary about the creation of the Calmels Sport IndyCar program which will air on Canal+ in France a week prior to next year’s 500-mile race.
SPM, Calmels Sport and Gommendy’s partnership will kick off later this fall with the Frenchman’s first Verizon IndyCar series oval test in October.
All that sounds rather odd, but good. Despite a driver with minimal INDYCAR experience, one that isn’t a new young driver at that, the series is going to gain a ton of exposure in a fine country. It’s a big plus for the series as a whole.
But, the history of the team owner coming to this partnership is even stranger.
Didier Calmels is the owner of Calmels Sport. He’s the man bringing this deal together. But, did you know that Calmels is a convicted murderer? Public record shows that in 1990, Calmels shot his then wife Dominique Calmels, fatally injuring her. The incident went to French court where Calmels was charged with murder. He served two years in jail before being released.
Also according to public records, French law is much more lenient as they ruled Calmels isn’t a dangerous figure to the public since his crime was