Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier will make the move to IndyCar this season.
The 23-year-old Frenchman told Autoweek that he has agreed to join Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in a two-car effort in 2013 that includes fellow countryman Simon Pagenaud.
The two French drivers worked together in December during a test at Sebring. Pagenaud finished fifth in last year’s IndyCar standings using a Honda engine and was awarded the rookie of the year title. Vautier follows another Indy Lights champion, Josef Newgarden, into IndyCar. So far, no Indy Lights champion in this era of the sport has won a race at the highest level. JR Hildebrand came closest in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with a second-place finish.
The only driver with extensive Indy Lights experience that has won an IndyCar race is Ed Carpenter, with two victories. Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal only made brief appearances in the series.
Tristan Vautier won four races from the pole last season in Indy Lights. He contributed to Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ third consecutive series championship following JK Vernay and Newgarden. Vautier is also the winner of the 2011 Star Mazda championship.
Team owner Sam Schmidt believes they will be stronger with two cars, with Pagenaud saying he believes he can fight for the IndyCar championship in 2013.