Teammates Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier are taking their fast cars and French accents to the deep South this weekend for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but the two drivers seem to have a difference of opinion on the finer points of an American Southern accent.
While IZOD IndyCar Series rookie Vautier finds the dialect an added comprehension challenge, Pagenaud says it’s a piece of cake.
“I understand the Southern accent really well, but I’m pretty sure they have a really hard time understanding me judging by the trouble I have ordering food in Birmingham!” Pagenaud said. “Everyone is incredibly nice though, and Barber is one of my favorite places to race on the IndyCar schedule.”
Pagenaud and Vautier have no issues translating their driving skill to the picturesque road course at Barber Motorsports Park, however. According to Pagenaud, excelling through Barber’s twists and turns is all about compromise.
“Driving at Barber requires a different approach to various corners of the track, which makes it incredibly difficult,” Pagenaud said. “You have to be versatile and you need the car to compromise with the corners. You could be really fast in one area of the track and slow in another.”
The Frenchmen come to Barber’s 15-turn, 2.38-mile course after an eventful IZOD IndyCar Series season opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg, where both had to retire early for mechanical issues. Vautier ran as high as fourth before retiring from his first career IndyCar race.
“I really enjoyed the race in St. Pete with the long stints and pit stops,” Vautier said.
Making the transfer to his first IZOD IndyCar Series race in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car from Firestone Indy Lights was a big adjustment for Vautier, but one that he found himself prepared for.
“I loved my first IndyCar weekend!” he said. “It was different from Firestone Indy Lights in that you’re really busy off-track so driving becomes less and less of the ‘driver job.’ But at the same time, when you are on-track the driving becomes more demanding as well!”
Vautier is looking forward to experiencing the extremely high level of competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series for a second round at Barber Motorsports Park.
“One of the biggest challenges in St. Pete that will carry over to the entire season is how tight the field is,” he said. “Each little detail counts and can make a huge difference in where you sit on the grid.”
Pagenaud is eager to get back on track in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car after retiring early from action in St. Petersburg.
“We had a really tough weekend in St. Pete, but we’ve been putting our heads down and working really hard ever since,” he said. “I’ve been communicating a lot with my engineers and I know we’re going to come out swinging in Barber.”
Tristan Vautier and Simon Pagenaud begin practice at Barber Motorsports Park on Friday, April 5 at 1:45 ET. The green flag will drop on the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 7 at 3:40 p.m. ET. For live updates from the race weekend, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.