Colombian driver Sebastian Saavedra is returning to his roots in the Firestone Indy Lights championship, rejoining AFS Racing, co-entrant and primary sponsor of Andretti Autosport's No. 27 entry.
The 21-year-old will also drive the Andretti Autosport/AFS Racing No. 25 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone Indy car in the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500--and potentially as many as three other 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series races.
Saavedra becomes the official test and reserve driver for Andretti Autosport's three full-time entries, with the opportunity to gain valuable test time that should strengthen his career in the United States' top open wheel series.
"I"m very proud to be part o the AFS and Andretti Autosport family again," Saavedra said. "Together we've had good times and I'm sure we can have hem again. I want to thank Gary (Peterson) for believing in my talent and building this program; he is always thinking of my future and the future of AFS Racing." The young driver's experiences in both Firestone Indy Lights and in the Indy cars over the past three years "have given me a confidence and big hunger for success. Being appointed as the test and reserve driver for Michael's (Andretti) Indy car team is something I'm also very excited about and I want to thank him for that opportunity."
In 2009, Saavedra finished third and was named Rookie of the Year in Firestone Indy Lights, while driving for AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport. He made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut with Bryan Herta Autosport at the 2010 Indy 500, where he made the field and learnt of this achievement after crashing in subsequent practice. Saavedra ran a partial Indy car season with Conquest Racing in 2011.
Andretti believes Saavedra has the goods to be a "strong contender in Firestone Indy Lights. Also, with the new car, having a test driver will help us take our IZOD IndyCar Series program closer to where we want it to be. We are optimistic about this relationship and will continue to explore opportunities - with the goal of racing together beyond 2012."
Peterson attempted to build his own team with Raphael Matos over the past two years, and realized the enormity of the exercise. "After AFS/Andretti's previous success in the Firestone Indy Lights Series - having won two season championships--I'm convinced that we can place Sebastian exactly where he needs to be to contend for the FIL championship this season. I feel the best career move Sebastian can make at this time, given the new Indy cars, is acting as a test driver for Andretti and racing the Indy 500 this season. This puts him in the best possible position to advance."
The Firestone Indy Lights Championship begins, as does the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship, with the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg the weekend of March 23-25 on the street/airport circuit at St Petersburg, Florida.