French racer Tristan Vautier, who scored two wins and finished fifth in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, set the pace in the first day of preseason testing for the 2011 season at IndyCar's Open Test event at Barber Motorsports Park.
Driving the No. 5 JDC Motorsports/Cecibon/Circuit du Laquais Mazda, Vautier turned a lap of 1:20.831 (102.436mph) in the 45-minute morning session. This is the first time the Star Mazda Championship cars have run on the 17-turn, 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park track.
Hot on his heels in the morning session when cooler temperatures and a thicker cloud cover kept track temperatures, and lap times, down was Chilean racer Martin Scuncio, who ran only the Star Mazda season finale in 2010 but very nearly stole the pole at Road Atlanta and figured heavily in the outcome of the race. He turned a 1:21.557 (101.524mph) in his No. 60 Juncos Racing/Fuerza Chile Mazda. Third quick in the morning was Irish rookie Patrick McKenna making his Star Mazda debut after a runner-up finish in the 2010 USF2000 National Championship. Driving the No. 48 Team GDT/Motorsport Ireland/Irish Sports Council/General Data Tech Mazda, he turned a lap of 1:21.626 (101.438mph).
"What a great track this is! There are so many great corners that you don't ever want to come into the pits," enthused Vautier. "The track got very slippery in the afternoon with more sun, so the times were slower, but it was still so much fun to drive. It's too early to tell anything about the drivers in the field or what the race will be like, but we're happy to be fastest on the first day, and we'll be working to keep it that way throughout the test."
In the afternoon, on a slipperier track, it was Scuncio who set the quick time of the session with a 1:21.361 (101.769mph), with Vautier second at 1:22.483 (100.384mph). Sage Karam, the 2010 USF2000 national champion racing in the Star Mazda Championship with a scholarship from the Mazda Road to Indy, was third quick in the afternoon with a lap of 1:22.502 (100.361) in his No. 88 Andretti Autosport/Comfort Revolution Mazda. And turning the fourth-quick lap of 1:22.754 (100.056) in the No. 10 Juncos Racing/JAC Motors Mazda was the lone female racer in the field, Colombian Tatiana Calderon. A South American karting champion who made the jump directly to Star Mazda with Juncos Racing in 2010, she scored six top-10 finishes and was 10th in the championship.
Star Mazda Championship practice continues Tuesday, with morning and afternoon sessions scheduled.