In-keeping with its commitment to backing promising up-and-coming young European drivers, Conquest Racing has handed a chance to Simon Pagenaud and Franck Perera at Sebring in the Champ Car World Series' first open test of 2008.

Following the announcement that S?bastien Chardonnet and Juho Annala will run for the third-year team in Florida, the two Frenchmen - both graduates of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, as the 2006 champion and 2007 runner-up respectively - will also be given their opportunity to impress.

Pagenaud, from Poitiers, had an excellent rookie season in the 2007 CCWS with Team Australia, notching up six top-five finishes - including three consecutive fourth-places in the Canadian Triple Crown events - and a best starting position of second. His Atlantic success the previous season had come courtesy of six rostrums and nine top-five results, prior to which he had also turned heads in the World Series by Renault.

"I'm really happy to be with Conquest Racing this weekend," the 23-year-old enthused. "I have the opportunity to run for Eric [Bachelart, team owner], who has put together a very good programme for 2008. I think Conquest Racing will be very competitive this year; they have very competent people on the team and we can expect good results.

"This weekend will be my first test with them and I hope to get things started in the right direction in Sebring. I also wish to thank Derrick Walker and Craig Gore, who gave me the chance to come and race in America as a professional race car driver. We had two very good seasons together."

Montpellier-born Perera, meanwhile, hopes to enter the CCWS this year as a rookie, following an outstanding Atlantic campaign in which he finished in the top five at every event. The 23-year-old - nicknamed 'Fearless Franck' - ended the season with a staggering eight consecutive podiums, including victories at Mont-Tremblant, Toronto and Road America. He also completed every lap of the twelve races and led 116 of them en route to second in the standings.

"I'm very excited to be working with Conquest Racing," the former Toyota F1 Young Driver Programme member and GP2 star asserted, having already tried out for Forsythe-Pettit Racing. "I want to thank Eric Bachelart for the opportunity. Now I can't wait to get into his car in Sebring and work with his team."

Bachelart was similarly looking forward to seeing how the two drivers work not only with the team but also with each other, with a view to including one or possibly both of them in Conquest's 2008 line-up.

"I'm not alone among Champ Car team owners who believe Franck was the cr?me de la cr?me in Atlantics in 2007," he praised. "Similarly, Champ Car fans already know that Simon is the real deal. He had a fabulous rookie season in Champ Cars last year as well as in Atlantics in 2006, when he beat us to the championship.

"We couldn't be happier to have both Franck and Simon in our cars as we prepare for the 2008 season. There already is good chemistry with both drivers, and now we will be able to build on that and prepare for the season, starting at the open test in Sebring."

"I believe that having Simon and Franck test is a testament to Conquest Racing's commitment and desire to take this team to the next level," agreed new partner and team co-owner Anthony Blumberg. "They both have demonstrated in the past that they can perform well in anything they drive, and I think we can expect good results from our 'French duo'."



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