Vautier: Plenty more still to come

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Say this about Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier: he already has developed veteran-like tendencies in managing expectations and just taking his learning in IndyCar one step at a time.

Asked Thursday in Long Beach whether he was either surprised or excited with his fast start to the season, with back-to-back Firestone Fast Six appearances at St. Petersburg and Barber, Vautier said neither, because either answer would paint him into a corner.

“If you’re surprised, you don’t think you trust yourself. And if you say you’re excited, it’s pretentious!” Vautier said, candidly. “I didn’t set any expectations going in, so I’m not going to say I’m surprised or not surprised.”

What he did help do, though, was push the team to get back out when told he would be in the Fast Six at Barber, following a blocking penalty issued to A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato.

“Yeah basically, I was pissed, and the team had to take the car off pit lane,” Vautier explained. “We were told by IndyCar in the briefings to get the cars off as quick as possible if we didn’t make it to the next segment. I was very frustrated with a big mistake.

“Then I saw myself on the top six when they switched, so I called the team and they didn’t believe me. It was funny. Then the guys made the car ready so fast.”

Vautier and Schmidt Hamilton teammate Simon Pagenaud have gelled, both on and off track. The two starred in a trip to Bass Pro Shops in Alabama, for some off-color humor beyond the series’ last race at Barber Motorsports Park.

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.