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Exhaust failure stops strong debut for Vautier

Mar 24, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

IndyCar St Pete Auto Racing AP

Tristan Vautier, the lone rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series, was impressive in his big-league debut before he was sidelined in the second half of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg due to an exhaust system failure on his No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Last year’s Firestone Indy Lights champion was superb in cracking the Firestone Fast Six yesterday in qualifying, and was running fourth on Sunday when he suddenly hit the pits for an unscheduled stop on Lap 69. After a few moments, the engine cowling on Vautier’s Florida Lottery-backed machine came off and the Frenchman had to come out of the cockpit.

Exhaust system issues had also taken his veteran teammate, Simon Pagenaud, out of the race after just 26 laps, forcing him to settle for a 24th-place result.

“It’s very frustrating, but that is part of racing,” said Vautier, who was credited with a 21st-place finish and shook the hands of his crewmen after his race ended. “We had a great run today. My car was fantastic and I have to thank the team for that.

“It was amazing running through the streets of St. Petersburg today and I really wanted to take it further, but it was out of our control. I had so much fun while I was out there and I’m very happy with my first race weekend in IndyCar, even though we couldn’t convert it into a result.”

Vautier is entering IndyCar this season after winning the 2012 Lights title and the 2011 Pro Mazda championship.

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