ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Tristan Vautier hopes his journey on the Mazda Road to Indy includes a drive to Victory Circle in his Firestone Indy Lights debut.
Vautier, a 22-year-old Frenchman who won the 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, earned the Sunoco Pole Award in his adopted hometown.
Driving the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, Vautier recorded a quick lap of 1 minute, 6.7229 seconds on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit to claim the $5,000 prize.
Click it: Qualifying results
“I had a great setup on the car, but the nerves, man,” Vautier said. “There were two laps to go and I couldn’t make a mistake. But it was good. The Schmidt guys gave me a great car and big thanks to Mazda for allowing me to be there, and looking forward to the race. I have a lot of work ahead of me now. It’s going to be a long race, my first race in FIL, so I’m going to try to make the most of it.”
He’ll be joined on the front row for the 45-lap St. Petersburg 100 (3:30 p.m. ET) by teammate Esteban Guerrieri in the No. 11 Ironbox/SSM car.
Guerrieri moved to the provisional pole with 14:10 remaining in the 40-minute rally-style session, only to be supplanted by Vautier four minutes later. Guerrieri, quickest in practice a day earlier, posted his best lap (1:06.6326) on his final lap. But it wasn’t quite enough to overtake Vautier.
Oliver Webb, also making his series debut in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/SSM car, will join Sebastian Saavedra, driving the No. 27 Team AFS car, on Row 2. Victor Carbone in the No. 3 Mav TV/SSM car will share Row 3 with Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 3 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling car.
The race will be broadcast at 5 p.m. (ET) March 29 on NBC Sports Network.