Bryan Herta Autosport has made some significant changes for the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season. The team has expanded from one car to two, brought in a pair of talented drivers and is preparing to make its debut in the Indianapolis 500 in May.
The team, owned in part by Valencia’s Bryan Herta, will be racing in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. Sebastian Saavedra and Stefan Wilson will be in the cars for Bryan Herta Autosport. Saavedra was the fastest driver in practice on Friday. Wilson is the younger brother of Izod IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson.
Bryan Herta Autosport and the drivers are no strangers to the streets of Long Beach. Saavedra finished eighth in last year’s Indy Lights race at Long Beach. Wilson was looking at a top-five finish when his shaft broke on his car and he faded to 17th. Daniel Herrington, the driver for Bryan Herta Autosport in last year’s race, finished 10th.
Herta said he would like to see both his drivers, Wilson and Saavedra, challenging for the win at Long Beach.
“I go into the weekend hoping we can get a 1-2, because that’s the best and try not to care which of them gets one and which of them gets two, as long as we’re up there fighting,” Herta said. “It’s like children. You try not to have a favorite.”
Herta talked about why he decided to expand his Indy Lights team and enter the Indianapolis 500 in May. Both decisions are part of his plan to enter the Izod IndyCar Series at some point. But deciding to expand his Indy Lights team and make the Indy 500 plunge were not easy.
“I want to claim temporary insanity,” Herta said. “It’s so difficult with one car, one driver, because you’re limited to how much information and data you can generate. We can really double our efforts. We can spread responsibilities. We can really cover twice as much ground.”
Herta has high expectations for his team. Both drivers have the ability and the experience to challenge for the Indy Lights championship.
Saavedra is the 2009 Indy Lights rookie of the year and won two races last year. Wilson is entering his first full season in the Indy Lights, but has already put Bryan Herta Autosport on the podium. He was third in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Fla.
“Our goal from Day One has always been to become an Indy car team,” Herta said. “We started in Indy Lights because we felt that was a good place to build our team, build our program, infrastructure, all that. We expanded this year to two full-time teams.”
Herta decided to enter Saavedra in the Indianapolis 500. Wilson and Saavedra will also race in the Indy Lights event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But the Indy 500 is going to be especially challenging.
“The bigger challenge this year for us is the 500,” Herta said. “We don’t have anything for an Indy car. We didn’t have a wheel or a wing, nothing. Over the last year we have amassed some Indy Lights equipment, but to take the Indy 500 when you don’t have any physical asset, a car, nothing, was a bit of a leap of faith. We now have a car, everything’s coming together, so I’ll breathe a little easier now.”
Herta said he has three specific goals for the Indy 500. He wants to qualify for the race, which won’t be an easy task. At least 45 cars are expected to qualify for 33 starting spots. Herta also wants Saavedra to challenge for rookie of the year honors and finish all 500 miles.
“If we do all three of those things, I’ll feel elated,” Herta said. “Fielding a car in the 500 seems like the next logical step. On the one hand, why start with the 500? That’s the biggest race of the year. But on the other, it’s also crucially the one that you can most easily be able to raise money for. We need to put a stake in the ground somewhere. Why not put a stake in the ground at Indianapolis?”