KVSH Racing and KVAFS Racing
The cast: Drivers – Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra. Race engineers -- Olivier Boisson (with Bourdais in photo below), Matt Curry (Saavedra).
Twitter: @BourdaisOnTrack, @SebSaavedra, @kvracing
The cars: Chevrolet-powered Nos. 11 (Bourdais) and 17 (Saavedra)
Snapshot: Bourdais, a native of Le Mans, France, who lives with his immediate family in St. Petersburg, Fla., turned 35 on Feb. 28. He joined the IndyCar Series in 2011 with Dale Coyne Racing, but 2014 will be only his second full season. The series kicks off the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, where Bourdais earned the pole for the Champ Car race on Feb. 23, 2003. Last year, he advanced 10 positions relative to his starting spot to finish 10th. … Bourdais and Saavedra were teammates last season at Dragon Racing. Saavedra, of Colombia, made his IndyCar Series debut in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 (then the only driver born in the 1990s to start the race). Still, he’s only 23 years old. The season opener will be Saavedra’s 39th IndyCar Series start.
The stats: Bourdais started to come on in the second half of the 2013 season in the Chevrolet-powered car, earning six top-10 finishes in the final nine races. Included in that run were second- and third-place results in the Toronto doubleheader weekend and third place (after starting 22nd) in Baltimore. He started third in the 500-mile finale at Auto Club Speedway and led 35 laps (first laps led on an oval since Milwaukee in 2006 in Champ Car) but was involved in contact on Lap 230. Starting seventh in May at Sao Paulo, he led 13 laps (his first laps led since Mexico City in 2007 in Champ Car). Overall, Bourdais had an average starting position of 13.8 and finish of 13.0. He placed 12th in the championship standings. … Saavedra posted a pair of top-10 finishes in 2013, with a career best of eighth after qualifying 21st at Baltimore. Recorded career-best start of sixth at Milwaukee. He started season by qualifying ninth at both St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park, and finished 20th in each race. Was running at the finish in 12 of the 19 races and placed 21st in the standings.
The gist: Bourdais, who earned four consecutive Champ Car championships from 2003-07, is tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy with 31 all-time victories. He joins KVSH Racing after two seasons with Dragon Racing (30 total starts). … Saavedra earned 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year honors after registering two victories and placing third in the championship with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport. He moved to Bryan Herta Autosport for the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season and made two IndyCar Series starts (the latter for Conquest Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway). He competed in 14 IndyCar Series races for Conquest the next season (with a then-career-best 11th at Sao Paulo) before moving back to Firestone Indy Lights with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport in 2012 (one win, fourth in standings) and also competing in three IndyCar Series races for the team. Gary Peterson, a former Indy Lights competition, has been “like my second dad,” Saavedra said, since he moved to the States, and that relationship continues this season with the No. 17 car having primary sponsorship from Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. (the company founded by Peterson).
They said it: “It's been the hardest winter in terms of work that I've seen my team go through in a long time,” said Bourdais, who’s had four on-track test sessions in the offseason and has the March 17-18 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park before the opener. “It makes you feel great because you know the level of preparation is quite high. We've made a lot of progress on all fronts. It's probably not going to be perfect right off the bat, but it's a two-year deal and I'm excited to see the progress we made. Hopefully we can hit the ground running and just keep on getting better.
“I do feel like there is a lot of potential, unexplored potential at KV. I could not put a strong enough point on saying that this group can win. I don't know how long it's going to take before we do it, but only because competition is so difficult in IndyCar these days. But at the end of the day everybody has the same equipment pretty much. It's just a matter of how you use it, how much work you put into it to get it right.”
Added Saavedra (about moving back to Indy Lights in 2012): “It was not an option. It was that or doing nothing at all. But with it came the opportunity to make us stronger with AFS and Gary Peterson, trying not only to prepare, but keep learning. At that time, being 20 years old, I had the opportunity to take chances, and still can. Now, looking back, this is a reality because of those days -- because of the not only trust that the Indy Lights series had in me, but, of course, the trust of Gary Peterson and Michael Andretti. Everything is just a building structure.”
(About his relationship with Bourdais): “We built a really great relationship last year. I respect Bourdais a lot and he respects me. I think we were able to understand each other and see development-wise that we needed each other to move forward. Definitely it's a plus to have him on my side, something that is already natural.”