12 July 2009
Saavedra wins Toronto Indy Lights
Sebastian Saavedra rebounded from the disappointment of being penalised for blocking in last week's Watkins Glen Indy Lights race to claim victory on the streets of Toronto.
The Colombian passed AFS/AGR team-mate JR Hildebrand on lap 18 of 50, and went on to record a 5.8630secs victory over the championship leader in a caution-free race, while hometown favourite James Hinchcliffe finished third - for the fourth time this season - after starting alongside Saavedra on the front row. Stefan Wilson finished a season-high fourth in the #19 Walker Racing car.
Saavedra led away from pole position but, with the race starting in wet - but drying - conditions, relinquished top spot during the scramble to fit slicks. Richard Philippe briefly took charge as he delayed his stop a lap longer than the AFS/AGR driver, but it was Hildebrand, up from sixth on the grid despite pitting at the same time as Saavedra, who assumed control as things settled down.
Knowing that he needed to act before his team-mate got into a rhythm, the Colombian pounced nine laps later, resecuring the lead and gradually taking control of the event thereafter to add street course victory to his earlier success on the oval at Kansas.
"It wasn't easy, I'm telling you," Saavedra insisted, "This is one of the hardest tracks I've been to - in wet conditions and dry conditions. We also made a pit-stop, things we're not use to, but the #27 crew did an awesome job. I'm very happy for AFS/Andretti Green Racing. Points are points, but we're thinking about the championship and that's what is important."
The victory was AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing's fourth of the season, with Hildebrand completing a 1-2 after claiming his sixth podium finish in nine starts in 2009, but the American revealed that he had been battling a familiar street circuit problem from the early laps.
"We definitely salvaged a good finish out of that, and I really owe it to the boys in the pits," the points leader admitted, "They really did an awesome job with the pit-stop, but I had hit the wall early and bent the rear suspension pretty badly - like five or six laps into the race - so I was just hanging on for most of the race.
"I thought maybe I could stick with Sebastian because I was sort of keeping up with him for most of the middle segment, but the thing just started going haywire on me through the fast stuff. So, after I almost wrecked the car a couple of times. I just backed off and thought we'd get it to the finish. It was good for the boys, and we'll see what we've got in a couple of weeks in Edmonton."
Hinchcliffe tied his season-best in third place after his Sam Schmidt Motorsport team had been out-fumbled by the AFS/AGR at the pit-stops.
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