By: Ashley McCubbin
JDC Miller Motorsports is off to a solid start in IMSA SportsCar Championship competition, scoring the victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. As the team gets ready for the next event at the Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course, NEWS FROM THE PITS caught up with Tristan Vautier to get some thoughts on the season thus far and more.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts on how the season has started off so far?
TRISTAN VAUTIER: Well, I’m very happy with our win. Obviously didn’t start that well with our reasons at Daytona, although it started great performance-wise and we had a great qualifying race and led a good part of the first part of the 24. But having to be out of contention and taken out by another car was hard to swallow considering the performance, but that’s what it was. It’s been lots ups and downs. Sebring was definitely an up and winning the race at Sebring and finishing on such a high was, for me, big in SportsCars and the team as well.
It was a pretty amazing feeling – going from something low in Daytona, to a high at Sebring.
ASHLEY: We’re a couple races in now, so you’ve gotten a feel of your competition. What are your thoughts on the championship as we look forward to the rest of the year competition-wise?
TRISTAN: Every team is a contender. The competition is very high. The series does a great job in keeping a good balance of performance that it seems every weekend, it could be anyone’s race. With the finishes at Sebring and Daytona, we know it’s going to be tough. We are probably the smallest team on the grid – we have great partners, but as far as the size and resources, we are one of the smallest. But it seems like we’ve been making progress technically with the car and it seems we’ve picked up momentum the last few races with our performances.
We’re hopeful to keep that going and hope we can be win contenders and be in contention for the title at the end.
ASHLEY: What are your thoughts as we look towards Mid-Ohio?
TRISTAN: We’ll see. It wasn’t the best race last year. We’re missing just a little bit of grip. As I said, we’ve made steps forward in what we’ve learned from the car so we should unload really strong. I think qualifying is very important in Mid-Ohio because there’s not a lot of passing. In May, the weather has been up-and-down the last few years so we see on-track where it gets pretty interesting when it rains as it gets really slippery. But I think if we keep doing what we’re doing and unload well, we have good chances.
ASHLEY: What do you feel is the biggest challenge of Mid-Ohio?
TRISTAN: The low-grip surface. The track is a very old surface, ltos of patch work on the track, and therefore it’s difficult to make the tire work. You can be easily have too much tire degradation, but you can also not manage to activate the tires on the surface. So it’s tricky in that regard in trying to get the tires to work on that surface.
ASHLEY: Why did you feel SportsCars were right for the next step in your career right now?
TRISTAN: Well, I mean, to be honest, as a racing driver, you have to go with the flow and where your career takes you. I think right off in it’s a great spot to be in as there’s a lot of stuff happening in Endurance racing with LMdh coming and a common platform to where the cars will be able to go to LeMans. I think it’s a great place to be in as DPi is a class that a lot of drivers want to be compete in – the races are very interesting, and the tracks are a lot of fun.
A lot of people want to be there so being there is kind of privilege and I feel right now it’s the best opportunity for me in what is coming up.
ASHLEY: Before now, though, you competed in the NTT IndyCar Series. Could we see you go back down the open-wheel route?
TRISTAN: If there was the right opportunity to go back to IndyCar, it’s for sure that I would not overlook at all. Right now, my focus is doing the best job I can in Endurance racing. If you manage to stand out in any series, usually you get opportunities for other series. So I know if I stand out in IMSA, it could open opportunities. But my focus and priority is right now not on IndyCar, but standing out in IMSA.
ASHLEY: How did you get started in racing initially?
TRISTAN: My dad created a race track in France when I was four. He found some investors to build the race track. There was a road course for cars, as well as a karting track on the side. I realized I liked it and did some races and asked me to buy me a racing go-kart when I was nine or 10. I did my first race when I was 10, and it went on there.
ASHLEY: There’s a lot of young drivers out there that may be looking up to you, wanting to be where you are today. What would be one piece of advice for them?
TRISTAN: Try to have a plan and look at where you can put yourself to get an opportunity to provide you a career. It’s a very difficult sport to get in, but there’s some people who manage to do so without a lot of financial backing and help. Where can you find those opportunities? Where can you find any opportunity to earn a scholarship to get started, to get into a certain series or get manufacture backing? Where can build a relationship?