I think this could be a very promising year of racing in the Indy Lights series, even though the grid isn’t as large as one might expect to the American equivalent of GP2. Last year’s season wasn’t too great, in my opinion: there wasn’t much of a title fight; Newgarden won from Guerrieri as the latter made far too many mistakes. The only other noteworthy drivers were Stefan Wilson and Pete Dempsey, both of whom will sit out the season due to sponsorship woes. On the flipside, this year’s grid will bring more experience, which is positive, considering last year’s frequent crashes and grid of mostly rookies. Leading the veteran title favourites is series returnee Sebastian Saavedra, who seeks to win the championship following a struggling year in IndyCar with Eric Bachelart’s Conquest team. He finished third in his rookie season (as rookie of the year) and with his IndyCar experience, could easily battle for the title. His greatest competition comes in the form of Sam Schmidt Motorsport’s line-up and Team Moore’s Gustavo Yacaman. SSM boasts Formula Mazda champion and rookie Tristan Vautier, who impressed in testing; Argentine ace Esteban Guerrieri, who has won races in Formula 3000, Formula 3, Formula Superleague, Formula Renault 3.5 and Indy Lights; Brazilian youngster Victor Carbone, who won at Las Vegas in 2011; and Oliver Webb, who wants to emulate Dario Franchitti’s success in American open-wheel. Yacaman, who topped the timesheets in winter testing, is experienced like countryman Saavedra. He enters his fourth season in the series and could be a title threat.
The new faces in the series include the aformentioned Tristan Vautie;, Carlos Munoz (those who follow Formula 3 may recgonize the name), who partners countryman Saavedra at Andretti; Israeli Alon Day, who showcased some fine performances in German F3 against the likes of Marco Sorensen, Hannes van Asseldonk, McLaren’s Tom Blomqvist, and the dominant Richie Stanaway; Joao Victor Horto, who steps up to Indy Lights following strong outings in Formula Mazda (he races for new team Juncos); and Formula 2 regular Armaan Ebrahim of India. These young faces will likely battle with sophomores Jorge Goncalvez, Juan Pablo Garcia, and David Ostella. Finally, rounding out the back, are Formula Ford veteran Alex Jones of Wales, BHA’s Troy Castaneda, the virtually unknown Darryl Wills, and lawer-cum-racing enthusiast Rodin Younessi. Jones spent 2011 on the sidelines; Castaneda’s track record includes ninth in ITALIAN Formula Master, which was won by the extremely talented Vladimir Arabadzhiev; and Younessi has a couple of fourteenth-places in the American Formula 2000 championship.
Despite the four under-achievers in the back, the likes of Saavedra, Yacaman, Munoz, Day, Vautier, Webb, Carbone, Goncalvez, and Guerrieri definitely promise to put on a good show.
In the first practice session at St. Pete, Sam Schmidt’s Esteban Guerrieri has set the pace ahead of rivals Gustavo Yacaman (Team Moore) and Sebastian Saavedra (Andretti).
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