Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tristan Vautier: "I Feel Ready To Make The Step"

The battle for the IZOD IndyCar Series title may be down to only 17 points going into the MAVTV 500, but there will be an even closer title fight in play at Fontana. In Firestone Indy Lights, rookie Tristan Vautier has stormed back to take a 7-point lead over Esteban Guerrieri. The winner will not only be this year's Lights champion, but will receive a scholarship valued at over a million dollars to assist with their move into the IZOD IndyCar Series. For both drivers, the stakes couldn't be higher.

I caught up with Vautier this past weekend, and got him on record in terms of his title battle, how it will impact his 2013 plans, and just where he sees his future in INDYCAR. In just a few days, Tristan Vautier will have perhaps the biggest race of his young career. For now, here he is, answering our questions:

-Welcome back, Tristan! So, as a Firestone Indy Lights rookie, here you are, a step away from the title. How are you feeling about the upcoming race?

TV: The last step is going to be the toughest and the most important! The points situation is very tight and nothing is done. I’m in a good position for sure, but I will have to do a perfect job in Fontana to get the title. I try not to focus about the points situation too much but about what I have to do to achieve a good race weekend there.

-Going into this season, as a Lights rookie, did you think you had a realistic shot at the title?

TV: I knew the competition was very strong and I was going to race against very experienced drivers. I tried to not put my focus on the results but what I had to do to learn fast and be up to speed on time. So, to be honest I didn’t think about it too much, I just focused on the job I had to do.

-Are you looking forward to another speedway oval race?

TV: Yes, I am. I’ve really enjoyed oval racing this year and it’s going to be good being back on an oval after 4 street courses.

Vautier on title: "I will have to do a perfect job".
(Courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
-Esteban Guerrieri--what makes him such a tough opponent?

TV: Esteban is very fast and has a lot of experience. This year his strength has been his consistency and the fact that he has not had a single DNF so far.

-Do you feel you'd be ready for a ride in the IZOD IndyCar Series next year?

TV: Yes, I do feel like it. Of course I’m aware that there would be a learning process for me but I think I’ve showed this year that I can learn very fast by winning my first-ever race in a Lights car, as I also did when I won my first-ever race in Star Mazda. I’ve been fast on every type of track and got poles and wins on both ovals and street courses, and I haven’t done many mistakes, racing against guys whose level of experience was much higher. So yes, I feel ready to make the step, but right now my focus is on the last race of the season and doing the job I have to do to get this title and the scholarship that goes with it.

-How much impact does potentially winning the Lights championship and scholarship have on your 2013 plans?

TV: Being first or second will for sure play a big game. As the champion, you are always the first driver teams look at, and the scholarship money can be a huge help.

-Was there a turning point or big moment you can point to in your season leading into this title fight?

TV: Our DNF in Toronto when I got hit leading the race exiting turn 1 has been a big bump on the road for us. From that point the mistake wasn’t allowed and winning was crucial. I managed to get back in the title battle after my two consecutive wins from pole in Trois-Rivieres and Baltimore, so I can say Trois-Rivieres was the turning point. But nothing is done and we have to be on top of our game next weekend.

-What's going to be your schedule or ritual the night before the big race?

TV: Nothing different from usual, just have a good dinner and go to bed early.

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