Tristan Vautier to race against car he qualified into Indy 500
INDIANAPOLIS – Tristan Vautier has done something at the Indianapolis 500 that likely has not happened since World War I. Vautier qualified one car into the race for another driver and then took over another car that made the Indy 500 for a different driver.
Here’s how it worked:
Vautier was hired by Dale Coyne Racing to qualify a Honda into the Indy 500 field for James Davison, who had a conflicting commitment with the Pirelli World Challenge at Mosport in Canada and could not be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Vautier did a solid job, qualifying the car 21st fastest with a four-lap average of 223.747 miles per hour. By yielding the car to Davison, however, the car had to go back to the last row.
Vautier was then considered as a replacement driver for the injured James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after Hinchcliffe suffered serious injuries in a brutal crash in practice at Indianapolis on Monday, but the ride went to Ryan Briscoe.
Then, Carlo Huertas developed an inner-ear infection that affected his balance and he was not cleared to drive in Sunday’s 99th Indy 500 by the INDYCAR Medical Staff. That meant team owner Dale Coyne had to find another replacement driver for the car that was 18th on the grid.
Finally, Vautier got the call and he is back in the Indianapolis 500 where that entry will also drop back to Row 11 in the 33-car field.
“I would rather be famous for other records that have not been achieved before, but this is something unusual so that is good,” Vautier told FOXSports.com on Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Vautier was supposed to be in Europe racing in a GT series at Silverstone this weekend but was released from that obligation to drive in the Indianapolis 500.
Eric Bachelart is a former IndyCar Series team owner and one of Vautier’s friends.
“When the accident with Hinchcliffe happened he thought he should be back in Indianapolis in case they needed him,” Bachelart said. “He spent the week here and Dale Coyne gave him the opportunity to replace Huertas so I’m thrilled for him. He is back with Dale and it is a good team and they work well with everybody. Tristan is motivated and has the desire to race again at Indy.”
This will be Vautier’s second Indianapolis 500 start. As a rookie in 2013, the driver from Corenc, France, started 28th and finished 16th for Schmidt Peterman Motorsports.
He was at O’Hare Airport in Chicago when he got the call on Monday that Hinchcliffe had been injured.
“It was a bit of a rollercoaster because I was waiting all week whether I was confirmed or not,” Vautier said. “Finally, I’m in. It’s crazy because I came here two weeks ago and knew if James got the deal in the No. 19 I would qualify the car but that was not done. Then, I was on my way to Europe and this happened. I haven’t had time for it to sink in. It’s great to work with the Coyne guys and it’s a different approach now. It’s all about the race where last week we stayed away from the pack.”
Vautier was in the car for Friday’s Carb Day for the 99th Indianapolis 500 for the final one-hour practice session before the race. He was 18th quick out of 33 drivers that hit the track on Friday at the Indianapolis Moor Speedway. His fast lap was 225.687 miles per hour in a Honda.
“I’m not as prepared as I want to be,” Vautier said. “This session was difficult to be honest. It was tricky but I think we have a direction where we want to go on the race. Carlos did a really good job and deserves to be racing this car. This isn’t the way you want to get the ride but you can’t help being happy to race in the 500.
“They had to fit me in the car really quickly Thursday night and then the session went by quickly. We’ll see what happens in the race.”
Vautier thanked his GT series team – Team Akka ASP – for letting him skip this weekend at Silverstone.
“We just had a call and they said I could race, seize the opportunity that opened up,” Vautier said. “They would find a replacement driver so I could race in the 500. That’s really cool from them to let me do that. But, yeah, I was meant to be in England today.
“I was an hour-and-a-half from boarding the plane on Monday. I put my luggage out, went to Alamo and rented a car and just drove back to Indianapolis.”
And what is Vautier’s plan starting from the last row in the Indy 500?
“I really have no plan,” he said. “Just go and try to pass as many cars as you can.”
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.