“It’s a small world,” Sebastian Saavedra says (without breaking into song) while seated next to Ana Beatriz at the Bayside Marketplace in Miami.
Saavedra, who turns 22 on June 2, was relating how he and “Bia” reconnected in INDYCAR a few years after they took different paths in motorsports. For the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500, they’re teammates.
Saavedra, from Colombia, moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, at a tender age to pursue his racing dream.
“When I started go-karting back in 2001, I wanted to be a champion and I wanted to be a race car driver,” he says. “Right away my dad said to be able to do that we need to search for a better level (of competition). Brazil is the top level, and we went there.
“It was an amzaing experience. I lived for two years in Sao Paulo and I was fortunate to meet Bia, who was already running in some formulas. We trained together with the same physical trainer. Every day we went to the same park to run. We just started a friendship from very early.”
Saavedra ventured to Europe to race while Beatriz was competing in Formula Renault Brasil and Formula 3 Sul-Americana.
“Six years or so later we bumped into each other in Firestone Indy Lights,” Saavedra continues. “Here she is, the same amazing person. We caught up very fast, and now — a couple of years later — she’s my teammate.”
Saavedra, driving for AFS Racing through a partnership with Andretti Autosport, will compete in both the Freedom 100 and Indianapolis 500 for the second time. He’ll start 24th in the 500 Mile Race. Beatriz will make her second start of the season with Andretti Autosport and qualified 13th for the “500.”
Saavedra, who was the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year, and Beatriz are race winners in the series. Entering the Freedom 100 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saavedra is the championship leader by two points over Tristan Vautier.
“It’s great to have strong teammates and a strong team at Indianapolis,” says Saavedra, who competed in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011 with Conquest Racing. “It’s crucial for us to keep focusing on the (Firestone Indy Lights) championship because that’s our main goal, but never lose focus on the big picture, which is INDYCAR.”