SEBRING, Fla. – Sebastian Saavedra relinquished the steering wheel of the Chevrolet-powered Dallara to new teammate Sebastien Bourdais as the sun began to sink below the treetops Feb. 18 at Sebring International Raceway.
“Now that was fun,” exclaimed Saavedra of his initial outing in the Dragon Racing car. “It’s not something new but every time you get into the car after a long time off it’s like the first time you drive it. It’s a good feeling.”
Less than a week after being named to complete the two-car Dragon Racing entry for the 19-race IZOD IndyCar Series season, Saavedra was on the short course during the team’s first on-track session of the new year. He’ll also join Bourdais in testing Feb. 27 at Sonoma Raceway.
“It’s the first contact with the team – the mechanics, the engineers and Seb as well – so it was very important to create a relationship as they’ll become your family during the season. From that aspect that was great,” Saavedra said. “(Team owner) Jay (Penske) has been great and I’m grateful for this opportunity.
“The team is so positive about how they were able to build up last season so we come with so much energy coming into the first race of the season at St. Petersburg. We’re looking very good and looking to make things happen with Seb, and I believe we’re a good combination to push each other.”
Saavedra, 22, of Colombia, has 19 IZOD IndyCar Series starts over the past three seasons. He had a best finish of 15th in three races with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport in 2012 and also competed in his third season in Firestone Indy Lights, finishing fourth in the championship.
Saavedra made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut with Bryan Herta Autosport in the 2010 Indianapolis 500, becoming the first driver born in the 1990s to compete in the race and the third from Colombia (Roberto Guerrero and Juan Pablo Montoya). He also ran in the season finale at Homestead-Miami that year.
He competed in 14 races in the 2011 season with Conquest Racing and finished a career-best 11th at Brazil after starting 23rd.
“St. Pete is a place I love to start the season and I’m looking forward to get everything we’re building now and get into the show,” he added. “Everything is clicking and I like that.”
Bourdais, a four-time Champ Car champion, set up the car in the morning session and monitored Saavedra’s feedback during the afternoon.
“He’s got experience; he’s not a newcomer feedback,” said Bourdais, who had two top-10 finishes in 11 races, with a best of fourth at Mid-Ohio in his first season with Dragon Racing in 2012. “He’s done a full season already and downgraded last year, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back to come back stronger.
“Overall, good day to get back in the groove and getting Sebastian’s feedback. We made a few changes to the car on a street course setup to see where we are and where we can improve. It’s good to get everybody back on the road and going again.
“There’s a lot of work to do before the season starts and not much time. We need to be good and efficient.”