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Sebastian Saavedra seals Dragon seat
13 February 2013
Colombian driver Sebastian Saavedra is to return to full time IZOD IndyCar Series race duty in 2013 after locking up a deal to drive the Dragon Racing #6 entry.
"I'm extremely excited about this new chapter in my life, and very thankful to everyone who made it a reality," said the 22-year-old, who will partner four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais in 2013.
Saavedra came to the attention of IndyCar team owners in 2009 when he finished in third place in the Indy Lights championship, claiming two wins and two second places in the process. He won again in the 2010 season, and that persuaded Conquest Racing to offer him a ride him in IndyCar in 2011 for 15 of that season's 18 events.
Unable to secure funding for a second season, Saavedra returned to Indy Lights in 2012 with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport and picked up another win and three more second places on his way to finishing in fourth place. Andretti also entered him into his third attempt at the Indianapolis 500 together with two further IndyCar races later in the season at Sonoma and Fontana.
Dragon Racing co-owner Jay Penske liked what he saw of the young driver, and has evidently decided that the only thing Saavedra needs in order to achieve his first top ten finish in IndyCar is the proper race team around him supporting his challenge.
“We are very excited to have Sebastian join Dragon Racing for 2013 and beyond,” said Penske said. “I have been watching Sebastian's rapid progression through the various series and I truly believe he is the perfect team mate for Bourdais.
"I look forward to seeing the results of their collaboration, and seeing them both on the podium many times this year," he added.
"Sebastien and Jay's dynamic approach to building a winning franchise makes me a strong believer in Dragon Racing's future and our ability to win championships together," responded Saavedra.
Saavedra's latest IndyCar opportunity is being backed financially by a group of Colombian companies that have supported him since the beginning and include Coldeportes, Marca Pais, Autoniza, Postobon, Seringel and Sumimed.
Crucially, Dragon will retain its TRUECAR sponsorship for a second season and will apply that to the #6 entry in 2013.
"Sebastian has excelled at every level of racing in which he has competed," said TRUECAR CEO Scott Painter. "We expect 2013 to be Sebastian's finest year yet."
It's reported that Saavedra had recently been in talks with Andretti Autosport about being a part of their four-man line-up in an AFS Racing co-branded entry, but that door closed last week when Andretti instead teamed up with HVM Racing to put EJ Viso into the seat instead.
Saavedra's deal at Dragon similarly has it's own knock-on effect on the 2013 IndyCar driver market, with former Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe having previously thought to be in with a chance of the seat but now looking increasingly unlikely to be able to secure a full-season race deal in time for the first race of the year at St Petersburg on March 24.
The news of Saavedra's signing also effectively ends the prospects of a race seat for Britain's Katherine Legge, who had hoped to continue with the team this season after a truncated outing with the squad in 2012.
"Feeling pretty sick to my stomach right now," she admitted on Twitter after the news broke on Thursday. "Thank you all for the support, i will have a statement shortly."
As for Saavedra himself, he was just jubilant at the news and said that he couldn't wait to get started on his new IndyCar challenge.
"It has been a long off-season for everyone who loves racing, and I have been ready to get back in a car since Fontana!" he said.
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