New Dragon Racing IndyCar teammates Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra are eager to get down to the business of preparing for the IZOD IndyCar Series season ahead and putting the team's controversial offseason, which included a bitter separation from former Dragon racer Katherine Legge, in the rearview mirror.
“Yeah, it has been a long off season and obviously just trying to get back in the groove," related Bourdais ahead of this week's Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. "I'm glad that the team's in good shape, and we have two cars that should be running the right way with two good drivers. It is sad for Katherine. But the team made the decision and I'm moving forward now."
Saavedra said the contentious departure of Legge ahead of his installation in the team was none of his concern.
“From my side, I think I really kept away from any kind of situation, said the 22-year-old Colombian. "I was working directly with the team on the development together with Chevy, together with our shock guys. I haven't been very connected to the situation. At this point it's Jay's (Penske) problem, I guess.”
Bourdais is hopeful that his team can build on the promising showings it made last year after replacing its uncompetitive Lotus engines with Chevrolets.
"I am really happy with what we've starting to try and build," said the Frenchman. "We have same assistant engineer, the same engineer [Neil Fife], the same chief mechanic, the same mechanics for the most part. So it's really the foundation of our team's L.A. base has stayed the same. It's been a little frustrating for them over the winter not be able to do everything they wanted, because there were some restrictions to everything we could do in the winter. But, still we kept everyone together and we are going full-steam ahead. We know what we had last year and to build on that is key. Really I can't put enough emphasis on this. If you want to build on something, you've got to keep whatever is under you.
"It wasn't easy, obviously – there was a lot of financial stress on the team after everything that happened last year and that kind of carried through the winter. You still have to pay the bills and everything. Although we wish that we could always do more, we've been able to keep the main things together and start working as early as January and build on that. It's definitely the one season in IndyCar that I feel the most prepared for. When I came back in 2011, I had no idea what was laying in front of me and last year not knowing anything about the package and not being able to test and putting a new team together and all that was quite a trip. To be in a very different position now and feeling a little more under control gives us a lot of reassurance.”
Saavedra said he was confident his decision to step down from IndyCar to Indy Lights will prove to have been a long-term positive for his career.
“It was a huge decision, for sure. It was a decision made together with Gary Peterson in the way that course the deal was to build up to move a full season AFS Racing, but for me it was even greater because it was my future in a way. It was a tough decision to make, but at the end now I see that it was the right way to go, not rush it. I think that was my problem in 2010. I think we tried rushing it too much. After a great season in (Indy) Lights, but at the end still 22 years old, I think that is a good way to think back, sit down, breathe and take another go at it. It's working.”
He and Bourdais have a new challenge ahead of them this year in the form of standing starts, which Bourdais sais he is leery of yet intrigued by.
“We'll see how that goes. The cars are not as hard as I thought they'd be to get out of line, but it's not an easy thing," he mused. "It can always go wrong – you can always stall, you can always screw it up. At the end of the day, it's another exciting thing for the fans. It's another thing to try to get on top of and it will be interesting.
"It's going to be very much dependent on the track; obviously, there are some tracks that are just not adequate for that. I'm sure the series will look at that very closely and when it's just not appropriate then we'll just keep the rolling starts and when we can we'll add the excitement of standing starts with the engines revving up on the grid and roaring before the green flag.”