Frenchman Jean-Karl Vernay will become the latest European to take his talents across the Atlantic, after joining Sam Schmidt Motorsports for the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights campaign.
Previously a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, the 22-year old comes to the American open-wheel scene after a mixed season on the F3 Euroseries, where he won two races in 2009 and then went on to finish second in the famed Macau GP.
Vernay has completed four tests to date with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He has sampled the extreme driving challenges of the Firestone Indy Lights schedule having taken part in his first laps on an oval at the Homestead]Miami Speedway, following that up with laps on the road course at Palm Beach International Raceway, before completing pre-season testing at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway.
"I'm very excited to come to America this season to race in Firestone Indy Lights with Sam Schmidt Motorsports," Vernay said, "I also want to thank my managers at CJ Motorsport and my sponsors for making it possible, along with the people at Volkswagen for encouraging me to go.
"Our testing has very much focused on development and set-up work. Coming from a different car and different tyres, it's all about getting the best performance out of the package. From that point of view, we've made some really good progress. These few daysof testing have also given my engineer and myself the opportunity to get to know each other better and I believe we can achieve great things together. I can't wait to get the season started."
Sports Management Company CJ Motorsport, which sprang to prominence via its relationship with both Franck Perera and Sam Bird in recent seasons, confirmed that it had added Vernay to its stable prior to his move to America.
"JK's experience and results in Europe are excellent, so we are quite pleased he has decided to further his career in the United States," team owner Sam Schmidt said, "We tested him at Homestead and Palm Beach and everything just clicked. The chemistry between JK and the team was excellent from the start and we're confident he'll be a great fit for the Sam Schmidt Motorsports organization in 2010."
Though new to racing in America, Vernay is no stranger to competitive open-wheel racing, having also raced in the A1GP Series for Team France during the 2006-07 season.
"There are not a lot of drivers who have the potential to win the Firestone Indy Lights title in their first season when transitioning to ovals but, after watching JK's first oval test and also knowing that he came in second in Macau in his rookie outing last year, I have no doubt that he has the racing talent, experience, and guts required to be a leading contender for the championship in his first season," ," Charles Barrett, one of Vernay's managers at CJ Motorsport, concluded.