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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sebastian Saavedra

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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series in the part-timer ranks. Next up is Sebastian Saavedra, who did better than anticipated in a handful of outings for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sebastian Saavedra, Nos. 8 and 17 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 21st Place, Best Finish 9th, 1 Pole, 1 Top-10, 14 Laps Led, 17.2 Avg. Start, 16.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 10th, Best Start 8th, 12 Laps Led, 14.6 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Saavedra seems to have more opportunities than most in IndyCar and in Gary Peterson, a father figure whose Automatic Fire Sprinklers support has been constant for the better part of four different seasons. The Saavedra/AFS partnership continued and moved onto Chip Ganassi Racing this year, which was a marriage of convenience – it kept the Leaders’ Circle-entered No. 8 Chevrolet he shared with Sage Karam on the grid for all 16 races and provided Saavedra his first real shot of a top-flight car.

He was pretty impressive all year given his limited opportunities, even if his results fully didn’t show it. The California book-ends were the best races, with a top-10 finish at Long Beach after zero preseason testing, and leading 12 laps on a different tire strategy en route to 13th at Sonoma. Making it into Q2 in three of four races was also very good to see, and spoke of a driver working well with his engineer and teammates.

Having been around for nearly 60 career starts over parts of six seasons, it’s fair to reference Denny Green’s infamous post-game speech after the Arizona Cardinals blew a 23-point lead to the Chicago Bears and say Saavedra “is who we thought he is.” But in the Colombian’s case, it means Saavedra’s a serviceable, nice, smarter than you realize driver with phenomenal spiked hair, who is a decent – if not superstar – shoe.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.