Exhaust failure stops strong debut for Vautier

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Tristan Vautier, the lone rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series, was impressive in his big-league debut before he was sidelined in the second half of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg due to an exhaust system failure on his No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Last year’s Firestone Indy Lights champion was superb in cracking the Firestone Fast Six yesterday in qualifying, and was running fourth on Sunday when he suddenly hit the pits for an unscheduled stop on Lap 69. After a few moments, the engine cowling on Vautier’s Florida Lottery-backed machine came off and the Frenchman had to come out of the cockpit.

Exhaust system issues had also taken his veteran teammate, Simon Pagenaud, out of the race after just 26 laps, forcing him to settle for a 24th-place result.

“It’s very frustrating, but that is part of racing,” said Vautier, who was credited with a 21st-place finish and shook the hands of his crewmen after his race ended. “We had a great run today. My car was fantastic and I have to thank the team for that.

“It was amazing running through the streets of St. Petersburg today and I really wanted to take it further, but it was out of our control. I had so much fun while I was out there and I’m very happy with my first race weekend in IndyCar, even though we couldn’t convert it into a result.”

Vautier is entering IndyCar this season after winning the 2012 Lights title and the 2011 Pro Mazda championship.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

SMP Racing
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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.