Report: Tristan Vautier movin’ on up

Reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier is making his way to the big leagues.

The young Frenchman, who has won back-to-back titles along the Mazda Road to Indy (Star Mazda, 2011; Lights, 2012), will be racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports according to a report from's Marshall Pruett.

SPM is slated to make a team announcement this afternoon as part of an INDYCAR teleconference.

Vautier collected four victories last season en route to winning last year's Lights championship by nine points over Esteban Guerrieri. He's heading for a pretty good situation too with SPM as well, as he'll be teammates with reigning Sunoco Rookie of the Year and top-flight road racer Simon Pagenaud.

But as Pruett explains, Pagenaud isn't the only one that'll be helping him:

"The team's recent re-acquisition of championship-winning engineer Allen McDonald has been the biggest move among IndyCar personnel during the off-season, and coupled with the driving and mentoring talents of Pagenaud and the technical wizardry of his engineer Ben Bretzman, Vautier is stepping into the strongest scenario for an IndyCar rookie in recent memory."

Vautier has certainly proven to be quite a talent in the ladder series, and while he'll face a learning curve while adapting to the big cars, he seems to have everything he'll need at SPM to evolve that talent further.

This not only realizes SPM's hopes for a second program, but also boosts the depth on the Honda roster. Chevrolet rolled to victory in the engine manufacturer's race last season, and while Honda certainly has a great No. 1 squad with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, one could argue they needed more solid programs behind TCGR. Vautier will help in that regard.

It's also another name to add to the list of graduates for Firestone Indy Lights, which has been producing some good talent lately such as Vautier, 2011 champ Josef Newgarden (now with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing), James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), 2009 champ J.R. Hildebrand (Panther Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing).