Vautier on pole for Star Mazda Round 7 at Trois-Rivieres
French racer Tristan Vautier, who won from the pole in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park, has scored his second pole of the season for Round 7 of this weekend's Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear double-header at the 42nd annual GP3R at Trois-Rivières. Vautier, the championship points leader since Round 2, turned a time of 1:01.542 in his #5 JDC Motorsports / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda. The time is just 2/10ths shy of the lap record of 1:01.341 set by Texan Rusty Mitchell in 2009 but marks a return to form for the young native of Grenoble, France, who has had to content himself with a quartet of top-5 finishes since his last visit to the top step of the podium.
"Qualifying here is very important, although there are good braking zones for passing into Turn 1 and Turn 6, so there should be a lot of action in the race," said Vautier. "The JDC Motorsports team worked very hard to find a tenth of a second here and a tenth there, which turned out to be a good thing because the top-five cars are all within half a second of each other. If we all manage to get through Turn 1, it should be a really exciting race for the fans, and it will be a major thing to the drivers because your fast lap in Saturday's race will set your grid position for Sunday's race."
Starting from the outside of the front row will be Brazilian racer João Victor Horto, winner of Round 6 at Mosport two weeks ago, who turned a lap of 1:01.790 in the #7 Juncos Racing / Programa Leilões Mazda. Not only is he carrying the momentum of his first-ever Star Mazda Championship win into this weekend with him – along with the championship-caliber expertise of the Juncos Racing team that won the 2010 championship – but he is the highest-finishing driver in the field who drove in this event last year, finishing 6th.
Starting 3rd, from the inside of Row 2 will be Florida racer Nick Andries, currently 3rd in the championship with a trio of podium finishes in Rounds 2,3 & 4. Andries, who started from the pole on the Milwaukee Mile oval and has scored two fastest race laps, set a time of 1:01.793… just .003 sec. off the front row. Starting next to him on the outside of Row 2 will be one of two 2-race winners (Rounds 4 & 5) so far this season Sage Karam, the 2010 USF2000 champion and winner of the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship to race in the 2011 Star Mazda Championship. Karam, a native of Nazareth, PA, turned a lap of 1:01.844 in his #88 Andretti Autosport / MAZDASPEED / Comfort Revolution Mazda.
Rounding out the top-5 is Californian Connor De Phillippi, also winner of two races so far this season (Rounds 1 & 3). Currently second in the championship points battle, De Phillippi, the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion who moved up to the Star Mazda Championship in 2010 courtesy of scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy, turned a lap of 1.01.971… placing all five of the top qualifiers within ½-second of each other, a situation destined to make Lap 1, Turn 1 a 'must-watch' moment.
The lone Quebec driver in the field, Jérimy Daniel, wound up 13th on the grid with a lap of 1:03.406 in the #26 Daniel Racing / FixAuto / Sherwin-Williams Mazda. The top-qualifying driver in the Expert Series for racers 30 and older was 2010 Expert Series champion J.W. Roberts. Both driver for and owner of Team GDT, Roberts turned a lap of 1:02.944 in his #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda to sit 11th on the starting grid. Team GDT driver Alex Ardoin, who is acting as driver coach this weekend, won this event overall in both 2009 and 2010 and J.W. Roberts won the Expert Series in 2010.
||Connor De Phillippi