BALTIMORE – Tristan Vautier has certainly made himself at home on the Streets of Baltimore.
Vautier, who has won at Baltimore in the Pro Mazda Championship and Firestone Indy Lights in the last two years, paced the opening practice day for the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.
The Frenchman turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 19.4792 seconds on the 2.04-mile, 12-turn street circuit in the No. 55 Environmental Rail Solutions Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car.
“It started pretty good for us, we unloaded pretty good this morning and kept the momentum going through this afternoon. It’s been pretty special, it just keeps going faster and faster for us. I don’t know, I just love this place,” Vautier said. “We started well, but I think it’s going to be about keeping improving because everybody is going to keep improving and it’s always very hard to put everything together at the right time. So I have to really keep focused and keep executing really well to stay up there.”
Eight different teams were represented in the top 10 and the top 13 cars were separated by less than a second as drivers and engineers attempted to get a handle on the technically challenging circuit that incorporates Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Twenty-four drivers logged 638 laps through the 90 minutes of track availability without incident.
Graham Rahal, driving the No. 15 blu eCigs car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was .0838 of a second behind Vautier. Josef Newgarden (1:19.6662) was third in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car.
Scott Dixon, who is 39 points behind the front-running Helio Castroneves in the championship chase, was fourth fast (1:19.7027) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. Castroneves was 13th in the afternoon session.
Also on Friday, Jack Hawksworth, who has won two of the three Firestone Indy Lights street course races this season, paced the initial practice for the 35-lap Grand Prix of Baltimore on Sept. 1.
Hawksworth, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson with Curb Agajanian car, posted a fast lap of 1 minute, 25.6896 seconds on the 2.04-mile, 12-turn temporary street circuit. Carlos Munoz, who enters the race with a 15-point lead over Gabby Chaves in the championship, was .5448 of a second back in the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport.