Race Weekend Central

Tristan Vautier’s IndyCar Whirlwind in Detroit

DETROIT, Mich. — Tristan Vautier‘s persistent calling of Dale Coyne for a race seat, even if only temporary, finally paid off.

Coyne called the Frenchman Tuesday (May 28) afternoon while he was at home in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Vautier accepted the ride in the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) Honda without hesitation.

During Friday’s practice session, the 2012 Indy NXT champion was last in the 27-car field, 2.9 seconds off of session leader Alex Palou‘s fastest lap, which clocked at just over a minute (1:01.7210) around the 9-turn, 1.645-mile street course.

“At the end of the session when I started feeling a bit more comfortable, I got going, it was really cool,” Vautier said in the post-practice press conference.

“It’s one of those things. The slower it is, the scarier it is, because the tires don’t get up to temperature and all that. It was all right. We know what to work on to keep improving tomorrow and close the gap. It was a good first session, I feel. Relatively good.”

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For many drivers, that gap would be a large way off of the leader, but that’s an impressive mark for Vautier.

Detroit marks Vautier’s first IndyCar race since Texas Motor Speedway in 2017 and his first on a road or street course since the 2015 season finale at Sonoma Raceway, both races also with DCR. Both races were in a previous generation of aero kit, and the aeroscreen was still on the drawing board.

Vautier’s preparation for Detroit was expedited. There was an issue with his old seat so a new one had to be made overnight. The team actually inserted it into the car while it was in line heading to technical inspection before Friday’s practice session.

The 2011 USF Pro 2000 champion had no simulator time ahead of the race weekend and was basically thrown into the deep end. Success for Vautier is defined differently than it would be for Palou.

“I want to see the checkered, have a solid race with no mistakes,” Vautier said. “I don’t want to put like a results goal, to be honest. Just try to execute my best every time I’m in the car.

“It’s like, really, every lap matters. That’s what I was focused on today. I was like, just make sure every lap counts and don’t make a mistake so you don’t lose track time. It’s hard to balance because you have a lot of ground to make up. You start from so far back, if you take too much time, you never catch up. If you rush too much into it, you make a mistake. It’s a major setback.”

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Vautier has been racing sports cars over the last several years in IMSA and the FIA World Endurance Championship, different beasts entirely from the open-wheel machines in IndyCar. That came with another mental adjustment Vautier had to make to his driving style for the weekend.

“The dimension of the car, sitting in the center of the car, I’ve not done that for a very long time,” Vautier said. “I feel like I’m not always sure exactly how much margin I have to the wall. Sometimes you don’t really want to find out the wrong way.”

Vautier is the fifth driver to step into DCR’s No. 51 Honda this season, though the Frenchman has not been confirmed for any entries beyond Detroit at the time of writing. Other drivers who have wheeled the No. 51 in 2024 include Colin Braun, Nolan Siegel, Luca Ghiotto and Katherine Legge.

About the author

Christopherdeharde

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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