Good start to the weekend but hard work ahead for Conquest Racing
St. Petersburg, Fla. (March 26, 2011) – Conquest Racing’s weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was off to a good start, with rookie Sebastian Saavedra making great progress in each on-track session, but an unfortunate crash in qualifying not only sent the team to the back of the starting grid but also to its backup car.
Saavedra, who is entering his first full season of IZOD IndyCar Series competition this year, has been soaking in the experience since he hit the track on Friday for the first practice and has constantly improved with each outing.
On Friday, at the end of the day, the driver of the #34 Conquest Racing machine was 14th overall and this morning, following the third practice session, he had moved up to 11th overall and was the best ranked rookie.
With his performances in practice, Saavedra and his team were confident heading into qualifying this afternoon and things were looking good for the rookie, as he placed as high as second at one point in his qualifying group.
But then the team’s progress took a turn for the worse when Saavedra was heading back out for his second stint in the 15-minute session. As he was on his way out from pit lane, a miscommunication sent him into the path of the oncoming car of Sebastien Bourdais and into the tire wall.
While both drivers were unscathed, the same can’t be said of the Conquest Dallara, which was heavily damaged in the contact, forcing the team to revert to its backup car for tomorrow’s race.
Additionally, because Saavedra caused a full course caution in the qualifying session he lost his two fastest laps, meaning that he will have to start the first race of the season from the last row.
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg goes green at 1:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ABC starting at 12:30 p.m. ET with a pre-race show.
Sebastian Saavedra, #34 Conquest Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone “What happened is very disappointing. We were doing really well up to that point and progressing all the time. I was coming out of pit lane and there was a miscommunication and I understood I could head onto the track because it was clear but then I hit Bourdais. The car is badly damaged so we will have to use the backup car. I feel bad for the team, especially the crew because now they have a lot more work ahead of them. It’s not the way I wanted to start my season but hopefully we can make it up to them tomorrow.”
Eric Bachelart, Team owner “It’s unfortunate what happened in qualifying. Sebastian’s done a great job so far. He’s constantly improved each time he’s been on track and you can’t really ask for more coming from a rookie. We were 11th after practice this morning, which was very encouraging for us. We were doing well in qualifying but sadly we were not able to put in another fast lap. The crew is getting the backup car ready for the race. It’s disappointing to be starting on the last row but I think we can look forward to a good race on Sunday.”