Not too long ago, we were looking at a mere seven confirmed car-driver combinations for the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights grid. When we talked with the King of the Mazda Road to Indy, Jason Penix, he reassured us that there would be at least 16 cars by time the first race on the Streets of St. Petersburg came around, and he turns out to have been absolutely right. Seventeen cars have been entered for this weekend’s race, including some cars from familiar teams and some from some newcomers.
The juggernaut of the Firestone Indy Light series, Sam Schmidt Motorsport, is back with a quartet of excellent racers as always. This year they return with two rookies and two veterens. They have the 2011 Star Mazda Champion, Tristan Vautier, and Oliver Webb who ran a few Firestone Indy Lights races last year for Jensen Motorsport. The squad also has two returning veterans, Esteban Guerrieri and Victor Carbone. Last year, we certainly saw that Esteban was lightning quick, but he was also inconistent. Carbone started the season slow, but gain serious pace in the latter half of the year. I think he will show to be the quickest, most consistent, of the four SSM pilots and will have a good chance at the championship this year.
Team Moore returns with Firestone Indy Lights journeyman Gustavo Yacaman. Gustavo searched in vain for an IZOD IndyCar Series ride over the off-season after coming off a great 2011 season with Team Moore including four podiums and his first race win in the series. With rides scarce, and engines even more so for IndyCar, Gustavo returns to the team in hopes of bettering last year’s performance and contesting not just for race wins, but for the championship. Yacaman is joined by series sophomore, David Ostella who drove for Jensen Motorsport last season.
The other powerhouse team returning to competition for 2012 is Andretti Autosport with two Columbians, Carlos Munòz and Sebastian Saavedra. Saavedra who ran last year with Conquest racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights squad after finding himself in a similar situation as Yacaman over the off-season. Saavedra’s sole goal this year is to take the championship and make his way back into an IndyCar. He’s certainly starting off in the right way topping the timesheets earlier this week in testing at Barber Motorsports Park. He was 0.35s clear of the next best time set by Victor Carbone.
In addition to the perennial championship contenders, we also will see a return of other familiar faces and teams including Jorge Goncalvez for Belardi Auto Racing, and Bryan Herta Autosport is back with rookie driver Troy Castaneda. Stalwarts of the Star Mazda Championship, Juncos Racing, steps up this year to race in Firestone Indy Lights with their 2011 Star Mazda driver, J.V. Horto. In addition, we will see a few other new teams enter the championship this season as well. Hopefully, the funds will remain and we’ll see counts in the mid- to high-teens throughout the season.
Entry List for the Firestone Indy Lights St. Petersburg 100
|2||Gustavo Yacaman||Santiago de Cali, Colombia||TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling||Team Moore Racing|
|3||Victor Carbone||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Mav TV/Sam Schmidt Motorsports||Sam Schmidt Motorsports|
|4||Jorge Goncalvez||Los Teques, Venezuela||Belardi Auto Racing||Belardi Auto Racing|
|7||Oliver Webb (R)||Manchester, England||Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports||Sam Schmidt Motorsport|
|8||Alex Jones (R)||Holyhead, Wales||Brooks Associates Racing||Brooks Associates Racing|
|9||Alon Day (R)||Ashdod, Israel||Belardi Auto Racing||Belardi Auto Racing|
|11||Esteban Guerrieri||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Ironbox/Sam Schmidt Motorsports||Sam Schmidt Motorsport|
|16||Rodin Younessi (R)||Palm Beach, Fla.||Younessi Racing||Younessi Racing|
|20||Darryl Wills (R)||Alvin, Texas||Hillenburg Motorsports||Hillenburg Motorsports|
|22||David Ostella (R)||Maple, Ontario||TMR-Global Precast-Xtreme Coil Drilling||Team Moore Racing|
|24||Armaan Ebrahim (R)||Chennai, India||Fan Force United/JK Tyres/AMG||Fan Force United|
|26||Carlos Munoz (R)||Bogotá, Colombia||Andretti Autosport||Andretti Autosport|
|27||Sebastian Saavedra||Bogotá, Colombia||Team AFS||AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport|
|28||Troy Castaneda (R)||Sacramento, Calif.||Forsythe/EMC/Barracuda Networks||Bryan Herta Autosport|
|76||Juan Pablo Garcia||Mexico City||Freightliner Jeffrey Mark Motorsport||Jeffrey Mark Motorsport|
|77||Tristan Vautier (R)||Corenc, France||Mazda Road to Indy/SSM||Sam Schmidt Motorsports|
|86||J.V. Horto (R)||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Juncos Racing||Juncos Racing|