BALTIMORE (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012) – Tristan Vautier did exactly what he needed to do in his quest to chase down Firestone Indy Lights championship leader and teammate Esteban Guerrieri before the final race in a few weeks in Fontana, Calif.
Vautier won the pole today in qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore Firestone Indy Lights race with an impressive lap of 1:23.6803 seconds at 87.753 mph. His lap was .8 seconds faster than Guerrieri, who will join Vautier on the front row.
It was Vautier’s fifth Sunoco Pole Award in 2012, which is his rookie season in Firestone Indy Lights. Vautier has now moved to just six points behind series championship front-runner Guerrieri by earning a bonus point for the Sunoco Pole.
Guerrieri leads Vautier 383-377 going into Sunday’s 35-lap race on the 2.04-mile, 13-turn circuit on Baltimore’s downtown streets.
Andretti Autosport’s teammates Sebastian Saavedra (3rd) and rookie Carloz Munoz (4th) will fill the second row, while SSM’s Oliver Webb will start fifth tomorrow. He produced a lap of 1:25.0699 seconds at 86.239 mph.
SSM’s Victor Carbone will not be able to compete in tomorrow’s race after a massive crash during the morning practice session. Though he was not injured, his SSM car was destroyed.
The Grand Prix of Baltimore Firestone Indy Lights race will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network, with coverage beginning at Noon ET Sunday, Sept. 2. Live radio coverage, as well as timing and scoring, of all on-track activity can be heard at IndyCar.com.
SSM DRIVER QUOTES
Tristan Vautier (Qualified 1st), Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/SSM Dallara: “It was good, very intense. I really enjoy the track here. It’s long and there are many corners. Usually street courses are quite short, with a few exceptions like Long Beach, and here. There are really many corners. It’s very interesting because it makes it harder to put everything together. I knew qualifying was quite long, 40 minutes, but I knew we were likely to have red flags. So I tried to push from the start and get some good laps in early on. It worked. I got a very good lap in right before I had to pit for my last set of tires, and then that was enough. There was the red after that, so yes, I’m really happy about that and the car was really good. The team, as always, gave me a great car, so it’s good to know that the performance relies on my performance inside of the car. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s going to be a tough race. We have to really keep working this afternoon to prepare for the car to race. We have to prepare a good race car, and we’ll see what happens.”
Esteban Guerrieri (Qualified 2nd), Driver of the No. 11 Pistas Argentina/SSM Dallara:“We didn’t have much time to drive, you know, because yesterday they were fixing the track. So today we had the second practice this morning and it was cut short because of the rain so we didn’t have much track time. But it wasn’t bad. Obviously, Tristan had the edge. On the second set of tires he was on it. And he did a very good lap. My car was OK. We could have improved with a third set [of tires], but we didn’t have much time to change from one set of tire to another.” (How was the track feeling?): “Yeah, the chicane was quite different. Obviously it is a new layout there and it’s quite bumpy. It’s very easy to touch the wall, to get the wall. Basically I was building up the speed, mainly all around the track because it was not very gripped up this morning. Trying to build up the speed in the car was not bad. In the chicane was where I could gain the most.” (Compare to last year) “It is a very good, very nice track to drive. It’s lots of fun. I enjoy it”
Oliver Webb (Qualified 5th), Driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil/SSM Dallara: “We definitely had more in the car if we could have gone back out. We were very quick in the beginning. There was a lot ALMS rubber down from their long session, but as it blended with the Firestone Indy Lights rubber, our balance which was good at the beginning, started to turn to a bit of oversteer. It’s little disappointing to be fifth. I certainly thought I could have been third. Esteban (Guerrieri) and Tristan (Vautier) are very quick and I think we could have been faster than the Andretti (cars).”
Victor Carbone (DNQ after practice crash), Driver of the No. 3 Max TV/Nevoni/SSM Dallara: “I just lost it. On the backstretch, there is a fast right-hander and it’s supposed to be a flat corner. Well, it’s supposed to be a flat corner. There just wasn’t enough grip out there that early. On the lap before, I was close and I tried to step up, but it was too big of a step. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to make the race. That’s racing but disappointing. These things happen, and it was totally my fault. I was just going too hard for it. Now, we just have to lift our heads up and focus on Fontana and do the best we can there.”