Competition has been fierce at the 2.385-mile permanent road course as teams began with an open test Wednesday and push through to Sunday's race.
Sonoma, Calif., - After rolling through the elevation changes in wine country at Sonoma Raceway for Go Pro Grand Prix qualifications, Simon Pagenaud earned the 10th starting spot and rookie Tristan Vautier qualified 14th.
Pagenaud rolled out in Group 1 of knockout style qualifying and posted the second-quickest time of his group. In Round 2 the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car was 10th fastest with a lap of 01:18.3787 at 109.545 mph.
"I'm happy because we made huge improvements this week to get the HP car in the 10th starting position," Pagenaud said. "The really positive point is that we have a fantastic race car and it is incredibly consistent. We just have to find what the other guys have found in pure grip level. Apart from that the car was really nice to drive and the balance was great."
IZOD IndyCar Series rookie Tristan Vautier qualified for the Go Pro Grand Prix in Group 2, and he narrowly missed advancing to Round 2 by two tenths of a second. His quickest lap of 01:18.3141 at 109.635 mph in the No. 55 Angie's List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car earned him the 14th starting position.
"I'm disappointed with starting 14th in tomorrow's race but I also think we did a good job because the car felt really good to drive," Vautier said. "We just couldn't quite find enough to advance from our group. We were definitely in the tougher qualifying group though because our speed would have been more than good enough to advance out of the first qualifying group. We're just missing a little grip, but overall we've improved the Angie's List car so much since we got here."
Looking forward to race day for the Go Pro Grand Prix, Vautier believes tire management will be key.
"Tire degradation is going to play a huge part in the race tomorrow, so we're going to be focusing on that tonight," he said.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports