Reigning Champ Car Atlantic champion Simon Pagenaud will make the step up to the top flight this season, having confirmed a deal with Team Australia, the team that took him to the 'junior' title.

A close friend of multiple Champ Car titleist Sebastien Bourdais, the Frenchman joins reigning rookie of the year Will Power in a two-car Aussie Vineyards-backed Team Australia line-up, and will campaign the #15 Panoz DP01 having impressed the team in recent tests at Sebring and Houston MSR. The announcement was made as the team completed the second day in Texas.

Team Australia co-owner Derrick Walker said that confirmation of Pagenaud's deal marked the start of the next chapter for the operation he runs with Craig Gore.

"We are very happy to have Simon partnering with Will, [and] Craig and I are glad to be coming back for our third season," Walker said, "Things are definitely coming together nicely. Simon was a big part of our 2006 Atlantic Championship and I expect he and Will will work really well together and make a positive impact on our race programme."

Pagenaud produced an impressive Atlantic rookie season, winning the championship on the strength of nine top five finishes, six podiums and one pole, despite taking only one race win against a strong field.

"I'm so excited to be moving up to Champ Car, and to be joining my old team from Atlantics," he commented, "We had a fantastic year with the Atlantic series, so moving up into Champ Car with Team Australia is great. Derrick and Craig were very helpful to me last year, and I am really looking forward to having a great season with them again.

"With the new car and all the new changes, the Champ Car series is getting stronger and stronger, so it will be a challenging year. But what can I say? I'm very happy where I am at this time and I'm ready to grow with the team and the series."

Pagenaud replaces Champ Car veteran Alex Tagliani in the Team Australia line-up, the Canadian expected to rejoin Rocketsports this season, and expects to challenge for the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year title that new team-mate Power secured in 2006. The Australian, meanwhile, will continue to pilot the #5 Aussie Vineyards Panoz as he chases the overall crown.

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