Firestone Indy Lights race winners James Davison and Gustavo Yacaman took their first steps – 80 laps each – to jump start their careers from Mazda Road to Indy drivers to IZOD IndyCar Series drivers. Davison and Yacaman tested the 2011 No. 27 and No. 28 cars, respectively, on Nov. 10 at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla.
Davison, a 26-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, finished second in the 2007 Star Mazda Championship before moving up to the Firestone Indy Lights.
"It was great to do my first IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport," Davison said. "I got some good experience working on car setup and chasing the balance with the engineers, as well as getting an understanding of the Firestone reds; where they peak, fall off, and what is needed to keep the balance underneath me."
The test not only gave the team some off-season practice time, but also allowed Andretti Autosport to offer developing drivers a chance to gain more skills in the pursuit of their ultimate goal of competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"The Firestone Indy Lights is a steppingstone to the IZOD IndyCar Series, and it has proven to prepare James and Gustavo very well," said George Klotz, team manager at Andretti Autosport. "They both gave really good feedback to the engineers – something that is always helpful from the team side. For them to get in the cars for the first time and to do so well is impressive and speaks positively of the preparation they've received so far in their careers."
Yacaman, a 20-year-old from Cali, Colombia, has spent the past three seasons in Firestone Indy Lights, most recently securing a fourth-place championship finish with one win during the 2011 season.
"Having driven the Firestone Indy Lights car before gave me a really strong base to perform well at the IndyCar test," Yacaman said. "The cars handle very similar. I got comfortable with the car really quick thanks to the strong base. As the day went on we made a lot of changes and were able to improve the car."
As the only IndyCar team currently competing with entries in each level of the Mazda Road to Indy, Andretti Autosport has played a part in the success of transitioning many young drivers into the IndyCar ranks. Seven of the team's former Firestone Indy Lights drivers have moved on to race an IndyCar on a full-time or part-time basis, including Marco Andretti, J.R. Hildebrand, Sebastian Saavedra, Charlie Kimball and Raphael Matos.
"I truly believe in the Mazda Road to Indy," said team boss Michael Andretti. "I think it's important to have a system to develop and cultivate the young talent that's out there."
The young talent at Andretti Autosport includes Sage Karam and Zach Veach, two 16-year-old drivers who began racing in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda with the team before moving up to the Star Mazda Championship.
"We have so many resources here, from the IndyCar drivers to the experienced engineers and crew members, for the Road to Indy drivers to turn to for help," Andretti added. "As a team, we're very much behind IndyCar and we're happy to be able to offer drivers like Davison and Yacaman this type of testing opportunity."