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Vautier to make IndyCar return with Dale Coyne Racing in Detroit

Written by Archie O’Reilly

Tristan Vautier, the 2012 Indy Lights champion, will return to the NTT IndyCar Series for the first time in seven years as he pilots Dale Coyne Racing’s No.51 Honda in the Detroit Grand Prix this weekend. 

Coyne have not laid out a full-season plan for their No.51 entry and have instead gone on essentially an event-by-event basis. Sports car veteran Colin Braun took the wheel for St. Petersburg and the Thermal Club exhibition before Indy NXT championship contender Nolan Siegel was in the car for Long Beach as part of a four-race deal intended for their No.18 car.

Former Formula 2 and now-sports car frequenter Luca Ghiotto was the second IndyCar debutant to fill the vacancy with respectable showings at Barber Motorsports Park and on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Katherine Legge then filled the No.51 seat for the Indianapolis 500. 

Vautier’s addition marks another left-field choice as he lines up alongside Jack Harvey, who is confirmed to be in the No.18 car for every remaining race bar Toronto.

Vautier last competed in the IndyCar Series for Coyne in 2017, when he substituted for Sebastien Bourdais at Texas Motor Speedway. The 34-year-old French driver also ran 11 races for the team in 2015, with his only full-time IndyCar campaign coming with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2013. 

Vautier was champion in both Indy Lights (now named Indy NXT) in 2012 and the third-tier championship now called USF Pro 2000 in 2011, earning him the initial move up to IndyCar. 

He was Rookie of the Year in his debut season and finished 20th in the standings with a single top-10 finish. But he ultimately departed the series at the end of his maiden season due to budget issues and moved onto pastures new in the sports car realm.

Vautier raced occasionally in GT World Challenge Europe between 2014 and 2019, where he picked up one victory in 2017. He was a more frequent feature in the IMSA SportsCar Championship between 2014 and 2022, completing a full GTD season in 2017 before four complete seasons in the top, DPi class with JDC-Miller Motorsports from 2019 to 2022.

With one IMSA victory to his name, in the 2021 Sebring 12 Hours, Vautier spent 2023 back within the European sports car scene. He drove an LMP2 car for Algarve Pro Racing in the European Le Mans Series alongside four races with the Floyd Vanwall Racing Team in the World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar class.

In the midst of his early sports car ventures, he finished a career-best fourth in Detroit on the old Belle Isle circuit when he returned to IndyCar for 11 races in 2015. Seven years in the waiting since his last IndyCar outing, he gets a chance to return to open-wheel racing in that same city.


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