LONG BEACH, Calif., Sunday, April 15, 2012 – Sam Schmidt Motorsports(SSM) earned three of the top five finishing positions including the win in Sunday’s Firestone Indy Lights race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Driving his No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/SSM car, Esteban Guerrieri passed pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra on the first lap and went on to lead all 45 laps of the race. In a race slowed by one caution period for three laps, Guerrieri averaged a speed of 89.212 mph around the 1.968-mile street course. He beat Andretti Autosport’s Sebastian Saavedra to the line by 1.598 seconds.
The win was Guerrieri’s fourth career Firestone Indy Lights victory and the 48th for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The team has 49 Indy Lights pole positions.
Rookie SSM driver Tristan Vautier passed three cars in his No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/SSM car on his way from the seventh starting position. Though the young Frenchman crossed the finish line in fourth, he was credited with third place in the final finishing order after Gustavo Yacaman was penalized seven positions for ignoring instructions from INDYCAR Race Control.
Victor Carbone drove his No. 3 Mav TV/Nevoni/SSM car to fifth after recording the fastest lap of the race (1:14.6652 seconds) on lap 37. Carbone moved to fourth on the final finishing order due to Yacaman’s penalty. It is Carbone’s fifth straight top-five finish going back into 2011.
SSM’S Oliver Webb finished fourth in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/SSM car after starting third. Webb lost several positions at the start, but drove a clean race to move back up to sixth.
With Guerrieri’s win, the Firestone Indy Lights championship is a three-driver race after three races. Just three points separate the top three drivers. Saavedra leads Vautier and Guerrieri, 129-128-127, respectively.
The next Firestone IndyLights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 and is one of the Miller Lite Carb Day events on Friday, May 25, which is part of the Indianapolis 500 weekend.
Esteban Guerrieri (Finished 1st), Driver of the No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/SSM Dallara:
“It definitely feels very good after last year when I started on pole and then couldn’t manage a very good pace in the race. But, we are more experienced from last year. We understood how the tires would work, and we just went for a low downforce setup to try to gain the position at the start from Sebastian. Then, when I go tofirst position, I just tried to keep a good pace and make a gap. I managed to do that, and then I just tried to stay about two to three seconds ahead. I was pretty sure there was going to be a yellow flag, which came eventually. After the restart, I tried to be cautious, not create any mistakes, until my tires came in. I knew Sebastian was pushing me, so I was putting down consistent times. I predicted that the tires would go away a bit in the end, which they did. They were a little bit fighting. But it was good. It’s good in the Firestone Indy Lights series that the tires go off in the end so you have to manage them. You have to think in the car. It’s not always 100 percent, and you have to drive it, which is the most difficult part.
I’m very happy to be able to win. It’s my first win of the season. I’m thankful to my sponsors from Argentina because only a month ago I wasn’t going to be here. I wasn’t going to be able to do Indy Lights, and then we put everything together. So really thanks to my sponsor, to my country, and of course, Latin America. We’re here with Sebastian on the podium, so it’s a prize for Latin America, as well. Thanks to all the fans who came here today. It is good.”
Tristan Vautier (Finished 3rd), Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/SSM Dallara:
“The season has been very good so far. We’ve had very good speed on every circuit we’ve been to. It’s been a tough weekend here though. Today was a lot of work for me because I made a mistake yesterday. I crashed in qualifying, so my bad, and that put me seventh on the grid. So from that, I am pretty happy to be on the podium. I think it’s a very good recovery. We had a good run at the start of the race. We were down low and tried to pass, so of course I hurt my tires more than anyone else, so I was hanging on a bit. I have to give big thanks to the Schmidt guys. It’s very good to have the 11 car with Esteban winning and Sebastian with us on the podium again. It’s déjà‑vu as we were saying. But again, big thanks go to the guys for fixing my car yesterday, both during qualifying on pit lane in 15 minutes and again last night. I owe them a drink, and yeah, I will remember my mistake from yesterday, try and not do that again, and move on from there.
Victor Carbone (Finished 4th), Driver of the No. 3 Mav TV/Nevoni/SSM Dallara:
“It was the third race of the season and it was my third top-five finish, so that is something that I am pleased about. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. Today, I didn’t get a good start because I started from the outside row, but I had a good car and was able to pick up the spots I lost at the start. The car wasreally good, and I was able to stay really close with the cars in front. Tristan and I were running really similar setups, so it was really hard to get a good run on him. I think we are improving, and I am looking forward to the ovals as well. Indy is next and we have some time off, so its time to prepare for the most important race of the calendar and the amazing month of May.”
Oliver Webb (Finished 6th), Driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil/SSM Dallara:
“We got a pretty good exit from the hairpin going down to the start, but unfortunately most of the outside row was up on me because Esteban got such a good start. So by the time I was at the start/finish line, Carlos (Munoz) was already in front of me. So, I had to run wide in Turn 1, which allowed another car to get in front of me. I lost two places just in Turn 1. I stayed back there most of the race. We had some good laps and were the quickest car through the middle of the race. It’s just a shame the start went so poorly for us.”
DATE: April 15, 2012
EVENT: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
SERIES: Firestone Indy Lights Series
LOCATION: Streets of Long Beach, Calif.
WINNER: Esteban Guerrieri
SSM DRIVERS: Esteban Guerrieri (Started 2nd, Finished 1st/Running, completed 45 of 45 laps)
Tristan Vautier (Started 7th, Finished 3rd/Running, completed 45 of 45 laps)
Victor Carbone (Started 6th, Finished 4th/ Running, completed 45 of 45 laps)
Oliver Webb (Started 3rd, Finished 6th/Running, completed 45 of 45 laps)