MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – For JDC MotorSports and its French racer Tristan Vautier, perfection was the name of the game this past weekend at Infineon Raceway. The championship leader topped the charts in every session in northern California, ultimately leaving Round Nine of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear with the pole position, fastest race lap, and win. With rookie Joao Jardim (eighth) and Nick Mancuso (10th) adding to the team points haul, and guest racer Mikhail Goikhberg (11th) charging from deep in the field, the stage is set for the Minnesota-based squad to continue its late season push for a third series title when the action resumes on September 3-4 on the streets of Baltimore.
That being said, the JDC racers entered the first of three races over four weekends well acquainted to the undulating track, thanks to an official series test one week prior to the event. Given Vautier had ended the one-day test run P2 on the speedcharts, it came as no surprise that he was immediately up to speed upon hitting the track for official practice on Friday. Setting the tone for what would ultimately be a perfect weekend behind the wheel, Vautier not only lead the way in the opening session, but was P1 in the second session, a half second faster than pre-event testing. While Jardim, Mancuso and Goikhberg were unable to match the pace of their championship leading teammate, the trio did make progress during the two practice runs, working on finding the right balance for the tricky IndyCar track configuration.
When the talented Star Mazda racers returned to Infineon one day later for morning qualifying, all the attention was rightfully on Vautier, given his day one performance. The two-time 2011 race winner promptly ensured all eyes remained focused on No. 5 Cecibon/Circuit du Laquais/Fontanels/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports Mazda, capturing the pole position via a new lap record.
Following a brief break to debrief, rest, and make any further setup changes, it was time to go racing under the California sun. Well aware that getting a good launch from the traditional Formula One style standing start would likely be a key component to a successful race, Vautier did just that, holding the top spot through the opening sequence of turns. With their teammate leading the way out front, Jardim and Mancuso spent the early portions of the 30-lap affair engaged in an entertaining multi-car battle for places inside the top-10. It was however Goikhberg who was making the best progress forward, rapidly advancing from his starting position deep in the field. The story of Round Nine though was Vautier. The Frenchman, in what was a superb display of high-speed driving, never relinquished the lead, posting the fastest race lap en route to a lights-to-flag victory.
"What a weekend!" stated Vautier. "I'm so happy for everyone in the team. It was a tough one. We set the pace in practice one, and after that the tough part was to keep improving with the competition getting closer and closer. Qualifying was incredibly tight and very exciting. JDC made the right call to get me in pitlane for a tire change quite close to the end. The race was very interesting, because I had to deal with the tire wear after having pushed hard to pull away and set the fastest lap to get an extra point. In the end, we managed to hang on. Thanks everyone! We will now keep pushing for the next one!"
Jardim, having being involved in a race long fight for position in the No. 39 Shopping M/Red Line Oil JDC MotorSports Mazda, was the next JDC car to the stripe in seventh, earning a second consecutive top-10 finish. Mancuso’s return to series competition after a three race hiatus witnessed the No. 27 Jimmy John’s Sandwiches/Indeck/Lake Forest Sportscars/F.A.S.T Race Products/ Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports Mazda taking the checkered flag were it had started, in 10th. In what was a splendid charge forward, Goikhberg followed his teammate across the start/finish line in 11th.
"It was great to be back in the JDC car," commented Mancuso. "We got a little lost with our setup initially, but had the car dialed in by race time. I wanted to finish further up the order, but another top-10 result in my sixth-ever formula car race isn't too shabby. Congratulations to Tristan on a great drive. I hope to be back for the race at Mazda Raceway!"
Fans and supporters of JDC MotorSports can keep abreast of the action in Baltimore via – http://livetiming.net/StarMazda/html.asp – Live Timing.
JDC MotorSports races with associate sponsorship from www.RedLineOil.com