Is IndyCar Becoming Too French-ified?

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Both the new crowned series king and the lone 2017 victor hail from France, so the question seemed obvious. Especially when the wine and cheese league is on the verge of becoming the full blown Verizon Jean Girard Series, Presented by Crepes.

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Photo from indycar.com

Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud are Frenchmen on fire in IndyCar. Storming to 1-2 at St. Pete, they appear truly tough to beat. Who could have imagined a few short years ago that these musketeers would be dueling it out atop asphalt parapets, like Athos and Aramis?

The fast frogs in question have greedily gobbled up nearly half the races going back to 2015, with a whopping nine wins between them. Despite Seb’s highly suspicious trailer fire last spring, the two apparently harbor no animosity. There’s a distinct absence of rudeness.

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Photo from indycar.com

Instead, they tend to be respectful and even complimentary of each other, as evidenced following the opener. In praise rich enough to be pate, Pags called him “untouchable” and “very strong.” The intriguing relationship that exists between them almost seems like a collaboration.

Perhaps it’s their grandiose Gallic heritage, their love of racing or even their scoffing snails that provides their professional edge. Privately though, some say Simon and Sebastien are rapidly becoming rivals, as their teams and aims couldn’t be more opposite. Whether acknowledging it or not, regal sons of France are locked in a ferocious battle for IndyCar’s Imperial throne.

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Photo from indycar.com

This driven driving duo comes from the western, more wild part of France. Pagenaud was born in Montmorillon, just over a hundred miles south of Bourdais’ birthplace Le Mans. Curiously, drawing an east-west line through Vierzon marks the halfway point between their respective hometowns.

The Napoleonic Bourdais owns an impressive thirty six career wins, while the relative newcomer Pagenaud owns nine in his own right. The two have five championships between them, the former four belonging to SeBass who won them consecutively in CART a decade ago. Both have years to look forward to in their racing careers, as Simon’s only 32 while Seb’s a sprightly 38.

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The question remains, is this continental drift good for the sport? Or are the accents simply too off-putting, the customs too strange for the American racing public? Chevrolet engines still power a third of IndyCar’s field and that particular moniker evokes racing history back to 1920, when a Frenchman last won the 500. Jacques Villeneuve is of course French Canadian, an entirely different sort.

Admittedly, diversity in the series has been lacking. On the inedible side of the channel, it’s down to just a single Englishman – and that’s counting Chilton. It’s disconcerting to think there are as many Russians racing in IndyCar as Brits, isn’t it? There’s also the recent record high of nine American pilots this year, not to mention all those Brazilians. Truth is, it’s not nationality that matters. That is unless you’re French.

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Photo from twitter.com

Has IndyCar begun to resemble Euro Disney lately? Oui, oui! But SeBass and Pags aren’t the sort of Frenchmen who are likely to surrender anytime soon.

It’s awfully enjoyable skewering them and their Europhilic eccentricities, shifting into full “Ricky Bobby” mode at the start of a season. And all the while rooting for the new guy from Dubai.

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7 thoughts on “Is IndyCar Becoming Too French-ified?

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