Tristan DeGrand of Eureka Missouri scored top honors at the 15th Annual Skip Barber Scholarship Shootout last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Karting Shootout pits some of the best young karters from around the world against each other in exercises both in and out of the racecar. The four-day event is judged by Skip Barber Racing School's top instructors as well as special judges that included Speed TV commentator Bob Varsha, Team USA Scholarship director Jeremy Shaw and MAZDASPEED communications officer Dean Case. At the end of the four days, and three hours of final deliberations by the judges, DeGrand had impressed the panel enough to be awarded a full season scholarship to compete in the 2012 Skip Barber Regional Championship Series.
"I really can't believe it, I didn't think I would do this well," DeGrand stated after being awarded the Scholarship. "This whole event has been an incredible experience. I learned so much, not just about driving, but about the business of racing and all the other work that goes into the sport. I really want to thank everyone at Skip Barber Racing School, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, MAZDA USA and my family for all of their support. I am looking forward to my first season of car racing next year and I am really excited for it to be in the Skip Barber Race Series."
The event started out with the FIA Motorsports Safety and Development training which saw each of the drivers go through a class on safe street driving as well as exercises in Mazda 3's on an autocross course and Mazda RX8's on the skid pad to apply what they had learned. In the afternoon, it was DeGrand's first time to test the Skip Barber F2000 car in anger during the event with sessions on the autocross course. The afternoon also featured mock interviews with Speed TV's Bob Varsha and motorsports journalist Jeremy Shaw.
Day two of the event saw DeGrand take to the famed Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca for his first opportunity to impress the judges at speed. Running a strong session, DeGrand established himself as a threat for the top-10 with a fast lap and average lap time that was in the top half of the field.
DeGrand would move himself up the judges list at the start of day three when he turned the third fastest lap overall and had the third fastest average lap time over the 30-minute session. During the afternoon session the judges decide to throw a curve ball at the drivers by staging a mock race which they dubbed the "Competitive Module". The field was set by the combined average time of the first two sessions which put the 15-year-old DeGrand ninth on the grid. After dropping back to 12th, DeGrand methodically picked his way back through the field to finish ninth on the track with the seventh fastest lap.
Going into the final on-track session the morning of day four DeGrand needed to have a strong session to impress the judges one last time. The Linear Sport coached driver was able to deliver when the pressure was on by setting the fastest lap of the session and running the fastest average lap time by four tenths of a second over the next closest competitor. The judges then went and deliberated. After the almost four-hour-long process, DeGrand was announced as the 2011 Skip Barber Karting Shootout winner. DeGrand now joins an elite group of racers who have won the award which includes A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Michael Valiante and several other top-level drivers.
After taking a little time off to let his victory set in, DeGrand will return to the wheel of a kart during the Red Bull Kart Fight at PRI on Dec. 1. The special event will not only put DeGrand up against former karting World Champions but also some of North America's top professional racing drivers. DeGrand will then focus his off-season on preparing for a full season assault on the 2012 Skip Barber Championship Series.