Tristan Vautier of Grenoble, France has scored his second victory of the 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear season in Race 1 / Round 7 of a double-header at the 42nd annual GP3R at Trois-Rivières. Vautier started from the pole in his #5 JDC Motorsports / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda and will start from the pole again in tomorrow's Race 2 / Round 8 by virtue of having set the fastest lap of the race today. Vautier's other victory, also from the pole, came in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park and he has maintained his lead in the championship with a quartet of top-5 finishes in Rounds 3 – 6. Vautier joins Connor De Phillippi and Sage Karam on the list of drivers with two wins so far this season.
"It was much hotter today so it was good to be at the front and not have to be in a battle on every lap," said Vautier. "I'm happy to be on the pole again for tomorrow's race, but all the top-4 cars are in the same place also, so I think the second race will be even more competitive and I must get a very good start. I'm fortunate to have a great team in JDC Motorsports and excellent sponsors who helped me get here, so I have all the tools, but to win two in a row you must have a little luck also."
Vautier gets the jump at the start
Unlike most Star Mazda Championship races, particularly at this circuit, it was a race that finished in pretty much the order in which it began – among the top-6 qualifiers at any rate. Starting and finishing 2nd in the #7 Juncos Racing / Programa Lilies Mazda was be Brazilian racer Joao Victor Horto, winner of Round 6 at Mosport two weeks ago. St. Petersburg, Florida racer Nick Andries, who started from the pole on the Milwaukee Mile oval and now has a quartet of podium finishes to his credit, started and finished 3rd in the #81 Team Pelfrey / Lithionics Battery / GS610 Brake Fluid / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda.
Sage Karam, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania native who won back-to-back oval races at Milwaukee and the Iowa Speedway, started and finished 4th in the #88 Andretti Autosport / MAZDASPEED / Comfort Revolution Mazda. Karam is the 2010 USF2000 champion and is racing in the Star Mazda Championship this season with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy. Connor De Phillippi, who won the season-opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and again at the Night Before the 500 on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval, started and finished 5th in the #11 Team Pelfrey / Justice Brothers Products / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda. And the youngest driver in the series, Californian Gustavo Menezes, started and finished 6th in the #28 Juncos Racing / Truecar / Safety Park Mazda. Menezes, who scored a podium finish in Round 5 at Iowa Speedway and has finished in the top-8 in every race so far this season, is an international karting champion who made the jump directly to the Star Mazda Championship.
Quebec racer Jeremy Daniel rose to the occasion of racing in front of a home-province crowd with a competitive drive in the #26 Daniel Racing / FixAuto / Sherwin-Williams Mazda, racing his way up from 13th on the starting grid to finish 8th.
The top-finishing driver in the Expert Series for racers 30 and older was Texan J.W. Roberts who qualified 11th and finished 9th in the #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda. Both driver for and owner of Team GDT, Roberts won the 2010 Expert Series championship and was also the top-finishing Expert in this event last year. Also competing in the Expert Series is Larry Pegram, the noted AMA Superbike racer who races 4-wheeled rockets in his spare time. Driving the #72 AIM Autosport / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery / Foremost Insurance Mazda, he was the last driver on the lead lap, finishing 10th overall.
The drama in the event was provided by Irish racer Patrick McKenna in the #48 Team GDT / Motorsport Ireland / Irish Sports Council / General Data Tech Mazda and Brazilian driver João Jardim in the #39 JDC Motorsports / Shopping M Mazda. The duo qualified 7th and 8th respectively, and were having the hottest battle in the race until Lap 13; they changed places twice during the lap and gave each other racing room, but both ran out of track on the infamous exit of Turn 1 and wound up in the tire barrier.
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