Updated: January 29, 2013 4:00 PM | By AFP

Auto Racing: Vautier, Pagenaud unite as French IndyCar duo

Tristan Vautier will join forces with 2012 Rookie of the Year Simon Pagenaud as French driving teammates for the 2013 IndyCar season, team owner Sam Schmidt announced on Tuesday.

Vautier won the Star Mazda series crown in 2011 and the Indy Lights title last year to set up his jump to the main US open-wheel series. His IndyCar debut will come at the 2013 season opener March 24 at St. Petersburg, Florida.

"It's a big first step and I'll try to learn as quickly as I can because there will be many new things this year," Vautier said. "I just hope Sam will be able to handle two Frenchmen... two on the same team will be tough."

Pagenaud, fifth in the IndyCar drivers' championship last year, hopes that having a two-car team this season after going it along last year will provide a boost for both drivers.

"Having a rookie sometimes is a good thing because he'll have a lot of raw speed that we can extract from him on my side and he can extract my experience. Having that extra information is what's needed to have a top team," Pagenaud said.

"I see him being quick straight away. The biggest thing for Tristan is to make the most of the situation."

Both Frenchmen are following in the footsteps of IndyCar veteran Sebastien Bourdais, who won four Champ-car titles from 2004-2007 but struggled in Formula One before joining IndyCar for the past two seasons.

"It's great to see Frenchmen moving out of Europe and coming to the US and trying to do their best to do a good job here," Pagenaud said. "It just shows in France we've got some good driving schools and we shape pretty good drivers.

"It's interesting to see. I'm pretty happy for France. But in the meantime we're in the US and nationality doesn't matter. The most important thing is to do well."

Vautier, who lives in St. Petersburg, won his first race in each of his prior series but is setting modest goals for his IndyCar start.

"I don't want to arrive and set myself any precise goals. I think I have a lot to learn," he said.

"I have an amazing teammate in Simon. I hope I can learn as much as I can from him and then get up to speed and hopefully both of us can work together and bring the team higher.

© 2013 AFP

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