Simon Pagenaud and Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports started qualifying day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with a bang by pacing the IZOD IndyCar Series field in the final pre-qualifications practice session, but the team lost momentum and failed to transfer out of the first round of qualifications.
Pagenaud will start 17th in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. He believes focusing on tire management is crucial before race day in the Streets of Long Beach.
“It’s frustrating because the car is so good on Firestone Black tires, but we don’t know quite what’s going on here,” Pagenaud said. “I thought my flying lap was good in qualifications and that we had transferred into the next group. We have to try and understand how we’re not working the tires properly, which is one of the same issues my teammate Tristan (Vautier) is having.”
Tristan Vautier, driving the No. 55 Lucas Oil c/w Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car, qualified 19th for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“It’s a little disappointing that we’re struggling but that is part of the racing process sometimes,” Vautier said. “As soon as you have the tiniest little issue you end up 10th in your qualifying group like I did today.”
The rookie driver’s focus has shifted to making sure he maximizes results for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in Sunday’s race.
“We’ll be working very hard tonight to figure out what we need to fix for tomorrow’s race,” Vautier said. “I’ll also be studying my driving line tonight to try and find every ounce of speed possible. Our struggle today just shows you how competitive this series really is.”
Vautier and the No. 55 car will incur a 10-spot penalty on the starting grid due to an unscheduled engine change.
Dario Franchitti will start from the pole for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in his Honda-powered car for the second year in a row. He set an IZOD IndyCar Series track record with his qualifying lap of 01:07.2379 on the 1.968-mile course.
Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified second, followed by Will Power in third. Takuma Sato and Mike Conway rounded out the top-five in qualifications.
Broadcast coverage for the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. Follow @SPMIndyCar for live updates from Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports during the race.