Indy Lights: Saavedra cleans up after storm

By Andy Darley

CalendarSaturday, July 11th, 2009

 
 

Colombia’s Sebastian Saavedra won the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto from pole, grabbing back the lead on lap 18 after losing it when the field pitted to change tyres on a track drying out from a pre-race thunderstorm.

Torrential rain had hit the 1.755 mile street circuit late in the morning, cutting short practice for the senior IndyCar series and causing the Lights series cars to begin the 50-lap race on wet tyres.

But the track rapidly dried and drivers were forced in to change to slicks during the early stages. Saavedra pitted with team-mate J.R. Hildebrand, who had qualified sixth, and emerged behind him. The American led until the first corner of lap 18, when Saavedra re-took the lead and stayed there until the flag.

Unlike many recent Indy Lights crash-fests, there was not a single caution flag in the rece – despite a spin from Ana Beatriz that dropped her out of the top 10 before she could recover.

The uniterrupted racing allowed Britain’s Stefan Wilson to secure fourth place, behind home-town driver James Hinchcliffe who slipped back from his front-row qualification position to finish third.

“I was quick in the wet and soon as it started to dry out we pitted for slicks at just the right time,” said Wilson, who is running a limited schedule this season for Walker Racing. “It was the right choice and we were really quick straight away when we exited the pits – probably the fastest car on the track.

“Towards the end the car started to go off and I had a few problems inside the cockpit. By the last 10 laps there was no way I was going to catch [Hinchcliffe] so I just preserved and kept my fourth place.”

Further back in the field Northern Ireland’s Ali Jackson had knocked off some of the rust that had slowed him at Watkins Glen and gained four places during the race to finish 11th, a place ahead of Panther’s Martin Plowman.

Jackson said: “In the morning practice we had gearbox problems and only did a few laps. I didn’t get a chance to run with a full fuel load at all. But the team did an awesome job.

“We came from 15th and got as high as seventh. Then I touched the inside wall in turn three during a battle with Wade Cunningham. I got caught up with a lapped car too. From that point on I drifted backwards. But still, considering everything, this was a good result here.”

Plowman added: “Man, it was a crazy race. Everyone started on wet tyres and as the track dried we switched to slicks. Even racing on dry conditions with the wet setup the car felt fairly decent until the brakes started to show the same problem that we had in practice.

“Well, we finished 12th but I have to say that on every practice we were competitive. We didn’t had a chance to bounce back from an unfortunate accident on the second practice and that hurt us during the race.”

Pippa Mann had her usual rotten luck, suffering mechanical problems before the start, and ended up the final finisher in 16th. She said: “We had a brake issue in the warm-up lap and I had to bring the car in to get it fixed. When I finally got back out the track was already dry and unfortunately we had the car on a wet track setup. That cost us a lot.”

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