MAZDA ROAD TO INDY
Tristan Vautier won the Pro Mazda
and Indy Lights titles in successive
years, and in 2013 was the driver
selected for Schmidt Peterson
Motorsport’s first year of running
two full-time cars in IndyCar.
But was he ready for it? Had the
Mazda Road to Indy system
worked? Vautier answered those
questions on track at the opening
round. He put SPM’s No. 55 car into
the Firestone Fast Six and, until
mechanical failure, was comfortably
running in the top five on race day.
He went even faster at Barber
Motorsports Park, starting third,
outqualified only by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power. On race day
Vautier was shuffled back to 10th,
TRISTAN VAUTIER, INDYCAR SERIES ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Over the course of the year, Tristan
Vautier outqualified teammate Simon
Pagenaud only four times, but then
Simon is exceptional and has far
more experience (not just in IndyCar).
So for Tristan, as a rookie, to be so
close on several other occasions is
actually very impressive…
but here, clearly, was a future star.
Yet amazingly, that 10th at Barber
was as good as it got. Thereafter,
too many incidents and accidents
(not all his fault) appeared to have a
debilitating effect on his confidence,
and he ended up 20th in points,
some 17 places behind sophomore
teammate Simon Pagenaud.
In Vautier’s defense though, the
2012 Indy Lights champion’s first
season in the “big cars” looked
very similar to that of the previous
Lights champ, Josef Newgarden.
It’s tough out there, as team owner
Sam Schmidt is quick to emphasize.
“IndyCar is so competitive and
having outstanding talent isn’t
enough,” he says. “You’ve got to
make it happen when it matters,
week in, week out. Tristan’s early
performances didn’t surprise us
because we ran him in Lights, plus
he’d matched Simon [Pagenaud] in
testing at Sebring in the IndyCar.
“But he wasn’t so confident on
ovals. And to be honest, our second
car program wasn’t perfect. You might
say our mistakes cost Tristan between
18th and 15th in points and his errors
cost him between 15th and 12th.
“So in the off-season, one of our
main jobs is to see how we can get
that program back on track.”
However, that will be for the benefit
of new signing Mikhail Aleshin. Vautier
is moving on, possibly to sports cars.
He was drinking from
the water hose at the
start of the year, but
wins at Milwaukee,
Iowa and Houston
saw Karam take the
Indy Lights title at
his first attempt.