Apr 14, 2012
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- With Tristan Vautier jumping to the top of the lap time chart with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in qualifications for the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sebastian Saavedra knew he had to be perfect on his final lap on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
"I knew whoever was able to do the last lap, last corner under green was going to win the pole," said Saavedra, who produced a lap of 1 minute, 14.6143 seconds in the No. 27 Team AFS car (Lap 21 of the session).
It was good enough to claim the Sunoco Pole Award for the 45-lap race April 15.
Click it: Qualifying results for Grand Prix of Long Beach
“We managed to pull it off. I’m very happy," he continued. "I think it’s very important for us to have the pole position in Long Beach because it’s such a hard place to pass.”
It was the second pole start in a row and fifth in Firestone Indy Lights competition for the native of Colombia who turns 22 on June 2. He earned the victory at Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago, leading all 40 laps.
Saavedra, Vautier and Esteban Guerrieri traded the top spot in the final five minutes of the 45-minute rally session. Vautier, driving the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, posted a quick lap of 1:14.7007.
On the succeeding lap, though, the car clipped the tire barrier in Turn 5 and Vautier guided the car around the circuit. The Race Director nullified his quick lap for impeding the progress of competitors on their final qualifying laps and he'll start seventh.
"It was pretty hairy," said Vautier, who second-best lap was 1:15.3773. "I lost control in Turn 5. I got loose in the entry and ended up in the tires. And from then I was at the middle of the track, so I decided to back it up and bring it back to the pits so as not to cause a red flag and ruin the session for the other guys. So yeah, that’s it. I feel sorry for the team because they gave me a car capable of pole and they did a great job."
Guerrieri, driving the No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, posted a best lap of 1:14.7757 (Lap 20 of 23) and extended his series record to 17 races of starting in the top five.
Oliver Webb in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car will be joined on Row 2 by Carlos Munoz, driving the Team Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport. Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling car will share Row 3 with Victor Carbone in the No. 3 Mav TV/Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.
Saavedra, who competed in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011, has his sights set on the title. He's four points behind Vautier.
"The important thing for is to get more points," Saavedra said. "Winning the pole makes things a lot easier. We need to keep the Sam Schmidt cars behind us. They are incredibly fast and hopefully my teammate (Carlos Munoz) and I can do it again. We did it at Barber and that’s what we need to do again. We just need to be safe, finish the race and bring points home."