The beauty of watching IndyCar racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course lies in the juxtaposition of a simple nature landscape against the screaming engines and cutting edge technology of the Dallara DW-12 cars.
23-year-old IZOD IndyCar Series rookie Vautier used his recent break from the IndyCar schedule to turn his first-ever laps at Mid-Ohio in an F1600 series car. Vautier used the weekend of racing in the junior series to familiarize himself with the track since many of his competitors in the IZOD IndyCar Series have been racing there for decades.
“The goal for me running at Mid-Ohio in F1600 was to help me hopefully get up to speed quicker when I come back here in an IndyCar,” Vautier said. “It was totally back to grassroots for me and reminded me of my junior formula years racing, which I loved. It’s just simple, pure racing.”
The structure of the quiet race weekend without TV cameras or media was also refreshing for the rookie.
“I just went out there and drove, and then we came in and worked on the car, and nothing else,” Vautier said. “It was such a relaxed atmosphere and that was very refreshing.”
Simon Pagenaud, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car, is reminded of home when he drives at Mid-Ohio.
“Mid-Ohio is very much like my home track in France,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a beautiful track in the middle of nature, and I really enjoy camping there. I’ve also had a lot of success there which doesn’t hurt my impression of the track!”
Pagenaud started and finished third in last year’s Honda Indy 200, and is hoping to move up a few spots on the podium in Sunday’s 90-lap race.
“This is a track that a lot of drivers and teams know very well, so you have to be perfect,” Pagenaud said. “If you want to have a decent result here you know that you have to execute perfectly.”
The 29-year-old Frenchman sits fifth in the championship standings, and is hoping to make up more ground on the leaders this weekend at the technically challenging track.
“Your car needs to be able to roll a lot of speed out of the corners and you have to be very confident coming out of those corners,” he said. “It’s also tricky to send the car out on the tarmac and then switch to the grippy patches. We’re entering the final part of the season too so now is the time to score some big points!”
Watch the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, August 4th with broadcast coverage starting on NBC Sports Network at 2 p.m. ET. For the latest team updates from practice sessions, qualifying and the race, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.