Frenchman Vautier seeks second Mazda Road to Indy title

Tristan Vautier once tried in vain to find a golf cart he had ridden on during a race weekend because he felt bad he left a piece of litter on it.

After an autograph session at Long Beach, where navigation between Fan Village and the paddock was anything but convenient, he made the trek back through the crowds to return a Sharpie he had accidentally taken.

But the courtesy the young Frenchman shows off the track isn't shown to his competitors on the track.

Vautier has won a third of the races in the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights season, with four victories at St. Petersburg, Milwaukee, Trois-Rivieres and Baltimore, and gathered more pole positions than any of his competitors.

He currently holds an 11-point lead in the championship entering the finale at Auto Club Speedway where he will race in a 50-lap winner-takes-all shootout, with only his teammate Esteban Guerrieri able to challenge him for the title.

"Getting back on the ovals, it's going to be important to get back on the pace on these types of tracks, get the brain to work a little differently and get back to it," Vautier said. "But I think with good preparation we can arrive and obviously have a good fight for the title. I know my team should give me a good car as usual and I have to do a great job, and we'll see what happens and give it all."

With the title in Firestone Indy Lights, Vautier would become the first driver to win two Mazda Road to Indy series championships since the program was created in 2010, and just for good measure, he'd do it in consecutive seasons. This time last year, he had wrapped up the 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear title via four wins and four pole positions.

As IZOD IndyCar Series teams are currently making their first trips out to Fontana for testing at the track, Firestone Indy Lights drivers got time at Auto Club Speedway on April 17, where Vautier recorded 109 laps to finish fourth quickest of 14 drivers.

"It's way different from the street courses and road courses," Vautier said. "The setup of the car has a big influence, so as a driver your feedback is very important, and information that you give to your team has a lot of importance. We drove at Fontana for the test day and the track is pretty challenging because it's very wide and very big, but the banking is not so big and it's bumpy.

"It's going to be interesting, for sure we're going to have to work well with the engineers to get a car that handles well on the track, and it's just a different approach from street courses and road courses. You're really focused on what you have to tell the team."

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