In Thursday afternoon's Star Mazda Championship qualifying session for Round 2 of the 2011 season at Barber Motorsports Park, it was French racer Tristan Vautier who proved the master of the 2.38-mile Alabama road course with a pole-winning lap of 1:21.166 (102.013mph) in his No. 5 JDC Motorsports/Cecibon/Circuit du Laquais Mazda. Starting alongside Vautier on the front row will be Brazilian driver J.V. Horto, who was just 0.2sec slower in his No. 18 Juncos Racing/Programa Leiloes Mazda with a lap of 1:21.366 (101.762mph). Vautier dominated Star Mazda preseason testing at Barber with the quick time in five of six sessions over three days.
"The track was very different from the series test here three weeks ago during IndyCar spring training," said Vautier, a second-year Star Mazda driver. "It was a bit slower, because the temperature was up and all the different kinds of rubber on the track from Grand-Am and IndyCar, but we all have the same conditions and my engineer Rick Cameron gave me a really good car for qualifying. Now we have to wait two days before we are on track again, and we will all be guessing what is the best setup. But I think I have the best guesser working on my car, so I feel good for the race."
Third on the grid will be Chilean racer Martin Scuncio, who qualified on the pole and finished second in the season-opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago. He turned a lap of 1:21.440 (101.670mph) in the No. 60 Juncos Racing/Bia Comunicaciones/Cable Del Pacifico Mazda. Rounding out the top-5 are Irish driver Patrick McKenna and St. Pete winner Connor De Phillippi.
In the Expert Series for drivers 30 and older, the top qualifier was top AMA SuperBike racer Larry Pegram, trading two wheels for four this weekend. His lap of 1:23.261 (99.446mph) was good for 13th on the grid. The top 10 cars in the field are separated by slightly more than one second around the 17-turn, 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park track.