Vautier tops Road to Indy test for Andretti Autosports Andretti Autosport changed Firestone Indy Lights drivers for Day 2 of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test, but the team still finished on top of the timesheets.
2011 Star Mazda Champion Tristan Vautier turned the fastest lap of the two-day test, 1:20.0061, bettering the lap set by Peter Dempsey in the same No. 5 Andretti Autosport car by more than a half-second.
"I'm really pleased," Vautier said. "I didn't really try to focus on being first. I just tried to do my job for the team. I got up to speed very quickly and as I got used to the car, we made more changes. It was very good and got the fast lap."
Fast Andretti Autosport drivers was the theme for the test and the team dominated the Firestone Indy Lights and Star Mazda portion of the test as Dempsey led both sessions of Day 1 and Vautier topped both of Day 2's sessions. Zach Veach, who will for the team in Star Mazda in 2012, led three of the four sessions for Star Mazda cars though Englishman Jack Hawksworth beat him for the fastest overall lap of the two days with a lap at 1:25.4308 in a Team Pelfrey car.
Series runner-up Spencer Pigot turned the fastest overall lap in USF2000 in an Andretti Autosport car (1:28.6190) just ahead of newcomer Scott Hargrove of JDC Motorsports, who led the morning session.
"To be driving out there against people who were in the series last year and to be competitive against them, it really boots my confidence, especially being new to the series, new to the car and new to everything, really," Hargrove said.
Lending a helping hand
Peter Dempsey, who has three top-five finishes in five starts with Andretti Autosport in 2011, served as a driver coach for Tristan Vautier, who stepped into the cockpit of the No. 5 Andretti Autosport car for Day 2 of the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test.
"Peter has been great and he gave me a lot of tips," Vautier said. "I had his video from yesterday to watch and for sure that was big help and we just continued to develop the car from where he left off yesterday. Peter has been here all day and he really gave me some ideas, so thanks to him. He's a great driver and a great driver coach, so it was nice to have him around."
When told Vautier had bettered his time, Dempsey shrugged, "I think I coached him too well," he said. "He's faster. The story of my life."
In addition to Tristan Vautier driving for Andretti Autosport, few drivers moved to different cars on Day 2.
David Ostella took over the No. 2 car at Team Moore Racing in place of Carlos Munoz, who moved to a Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Rusty Mitchell and Joel Miller shared the No. 17 Team E car for the second day.
With an eye at improving Firestone Indy Lights racing, Team E owner Neil Enerson brought new technology to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test.
Enerson's Team E's No. 17 car was outfitted with the Pro-Shift's P3 Paddle Shift system for the Indianapolis test after Conor Daly and Rusty Mitchell put the system through a shakedown test at Sebring on Oct. 24.
"Team E asked if they could add the system to the car to demonstrate how it worked," said Roger Bailey, executive director for Firestone Indy Lights. "We allowed them to do this because letting all the teams see how it works will allow us to determine if we add the system to our cars."
Enerson discovered the cost-effective paddle shift system while racing a Formula 1000 car with his son R.C., an up and coming racer.
"It's something that we thought as a team owner, that we thought that teams really need to move the series forward," he said. "I found out that (Pro-Shift) made a system with the same gearbox in Europe for the last couple of years and the system is reliable and the system is inexpensive, bolt-on and all drivers are talking about how they can keep both hands on the wheel and focus on the course. We just hope it's something INDYCAR wants to adopt."
Mitchell joined Firestone Indy Lights veteran Joel Miller and 2011 Star Mazda champion Tristan Vautier split time in the car during the two-day test at Indianapolis. The drivers had rave review for the way it worked in the car.
"The paddle shift in the car makes driving the car really nice, and not just because it's safer and it is because you keep both hands on the wheel," said Miller, who spent his first day testing a Firestone Indy Lights after competing a few races in 2010 and 11.
"The downshifts and upshifts are so smooth. The better drivers are going to find a way to make it faster, so it won't take the driver out of the equation. It's a good addition to the car."
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