JDC Motorsport's Tristan Vautier claimed his fourth Star Mazda Championship race win of the season at the weekend’s inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix to bolster his championship charge with only one round of the series remaining.
Ongoing construction of the Baltimore track meant that practice time for the Star Mazda series was put back, and eventually the qualifying session was run as a practice session for the drivers, and grid positions being based on the championship standings prior to the Baltimore event.
As such, Vautier started from pole position with his only realistic rival for the championship Connor De Phillippi starting from second.
Vautier delivered a mature performance to achieve his fourth win of the season, and he was followed over the line by Andretti Autosport driver Sage Karam, with JV Horto in third.
Speaking of the seemingly comfortable race win, Vautier said “I felt very much in control of the race right from the start, although I could see Connor De Phillippi in my mirrors and that always gives a little bit of pressure; but then at about the half-way point I didn’t see him any more and they told me over the radio that he crashed, so that meant I could stop worrying about him and focus instead on not making a mistake.”
Vautier has one eye on the championship, but is also keen to remain focused on the task in-hand.
“This turned out to be a very important race and it looks good for the championship but we must be careful that we do not take anything for granted. I am very thankful to the JDC team and my engineer Rick Cameron for a great car today and all season long. But I know that when we go to the finale at Mazda Raceway we will be prepared for a hard fight, like every weekend,” said Vautier.
Although straight forward for the front runners, drama unfolded behind them.
J.W. Roberts crashed out at the first corner of the race, and was followed in the misfortune takes by Nick Andries who had to pit for repairs early on. The visit to pit road saw him re-join some four laps down on the leaders, and in-turn, he saw his championship hopes fade away.
De Phillippi remains the only mathematically realistic driver who can prevent Vautier wrapping up the 2011 championship, but his title hopes were dealt a severe blow when his mistake saw him crash out of the front running place.