Skip to content

Bourdais conquers the seven-year road back to an IndyCar race win

Jul 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

BourdaisTOR12 AP

TORONTO – We didn’t get to elaborate on it much yesterday due to the tight schedule, but for Sebastien Bourdais, winning in the Verizon IndyCar Series marked the end of a seven-year journey that took on a winding, tortuous road following his success in the Champ Car World Series.

“It’s been quite a journey, but that’s the career of a race car driver,” Bourdais said post-race after his race one win in the Honda Indy Toronto.  “You’re only as good as your car is and you get some ups and downs, and you gotta fight through and hope you keep the motivation and that you keep challenging yourself, so you stay on top of yourself and kind of keep the passion. As long as the passion is here, you know, you just make it up and it’s a perfect example today.”

So about that journey?  You should know the story if you’ve followed Bourdais since his four straight Champ Car titles.

What was meant to be a coronation of going to Formula One turned into a disaster for “Seabass” with Scuderia Toro Rosso; he struggled to come to grips with the chassis and a then-unheralded German named Sebastian Vettel.

Since, it was a path of sports car racing and some alternative open-wheel, with the biggest near miss in this stretch a second place at Bourdais’ home race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – by a scant 13 seconds in 2011, driving for Peugeot.

His return to IndyCar in 2011 featured only two partial seasons with Dale Coyne Racing and Dragon Racing, before Dragon finally had the proper engine to allow for a full-season run last year. Some success followed at long last in the second half of the season following an engineering change.

This year, it’s been more change, but Bourdais was due to burst through soon enough. At KVSH Racing he has the resources to be with a higher caliber outfit, he has former Champ Car rival Jimmy Vasser on his pit box, and he has gelled with his fellow Frenchman Olivier Boisson, his new primary engineer.

Penalties and missed opportunities had peppered his season but there was no doubting Bourdais in race one. The “Seabass” of old was back with a crushingly dominant drive, and it was a beautiful thing to see as he captured his 32nd career win.

“I got a big smile across my face and I can’t seem to get rid of it. It’s just really cool,” Bourdais said post-race. “The whole race I was stressed out, it felt too easy, it felt like it was way too much under control and it felt like it was way going to go wrong at some point. I don’t know how, but it didn’t.”

Bourdais joins fellow ex-CART/Champ Car champion Juan Pablo Montoya as a race winner in 2014, which is cool to see because it means there is still plenty of life in the old dogs. They’ve now both won in two different stints; two different eras of North American open-wheel competition.

It’s not that Bourdais’ Champ Car rivals were inferior in comparison, but with anywhere from 17-20 cars and usually one quarter to a third of them featuring lesser distinguished paying drivers, there were a handful of doubters about Bourdais’ true ability.

Now, having been through so much more to get back here, and winning in what’s widely considered one of the deepest IndyCar fields in 20 or so years, the appreciation level is much higher.

“All of us at Newman/Haas, we probably realized how special this time was when it was behind us, and it’s always like that how when you reflect on everything that happened, it was very, very, very extraordinary,” Bourdais said.

“Now, you know, to be able to do it with the density of the field in the way we have done it today is very special and shows that I still got it. I’m here to stay, and hopefully we can get on a roll.

“There is not going to be any domination like we had from ’04 to ’07 just because there are too many good drivers, too many strong cars, the way the racing is these days.  You look at it, you’re either P1 or P10, so you can’t have the consistency but we can still be contenders and to win a championship in a series, you have to finish top-five almost every weekend, which on paper can look easy but it’s not.

I had a feeling preseason Bourdais was winning at least once this year, and Toronto proved a perfect place for him and the KVSH team to pull it off, in front of his family and his sponsor’s headquarters.

Believe it or not, it’s also the team’s first win on a road or street course since Will Power won at Long Beach in 2008 – coincidentally, the Champ Car series finale, and a race where Bourdais didn’t compete.

Latest Posts
  1. NHRA: Jack Beckman (54 races), Larry Morgan (120 races) snap lengthy winless streaks in 4-Wide Nationals

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    nhra four-wide nationals

    Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) broke lengthy winless streaks in Sunday’s finals of the 4-Wide Nationals in Concord, N.C.

  2. Montoya’s evolution evident after statement victory in St. Pete

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin2 AP

    The year-on-year evolution of JPM showcases a driver still getting even better.

  3. Jeans and Ice Cream: Will Power’s brother live tweets IndyCar season opener

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Will Power, Will Power,

    Will Power’s brother brings the jokes while live tweeting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

  4. Power dominates another St. Pete race from pole, but reflective post-race

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:53 PM EDT

    WillSTPwin AP

    Close but no cigar, but still a very good day for Will Power in the IndyCar opener at St. Petersburg.

  5. IndyCar: Tony Kanaan breaks up Penske’s quartet with third place finish

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:27 PM EDT

    Tony Kanaan Tony Kanaan

    Tony Kanaan earns second podium in a row while thwarting potential sweep by Penske.

  6. Montoya ekes out win in St. Petersburg season opener

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin AP

    Juan Pablo Montoya emerges up front after beating teammate Will Power on pit stops, and then holds off a final challenge.

  7. Will Power, debris dominate halfway through Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:14 PM EDT

    Will Power, Will Power,

    Will Power led a caution filled Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after 55 laps.

  8. Indy Lights: Ed Jones doubles up in St. Petersburg

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:23 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Ed Jones wins again in St. Petersburg, to complete an Indy Lights weekend sweep.

  9. What to watch for: IndyCar at St. Petersburg

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    W2W4stp AP

    IndyCar is racing today, at long last. Here’s what to watch for.

  10. Malaysian Grand Prix signs three-year contract extension

    Mar 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia Getty Images

    F1 will continue to visit the Sepang International Circuit until 2018 after a deal was signed on Sunday.

  11. Rahal leads St. Petersburg afternoon warmup

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Graham Rahal breaks up the Penske juggernaut and leads IndyCar warmup at St. Petersburg.

  12. McLaren upbeat in spite of double retirement in Malaysia

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Fernando Alonso AP

    Alonso and Button both sidelined by problems with the Honda power unit in Malaysia.

  13. Perez, Hulkenberg and Maldonado hit with penalty points

    Mar 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Hulkenberg 293 Getty Images

    All three drivers sanctioned by the stewards for misdemeanors in today’s race.

  14. Ricciardo felt helpless en route to P10 finish in Malaysia

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Ricciardo 293 Getty Images

    Red Bull endures a miserable day in Malaysia, scoring just three points in total.

  15. Manor thrilled as Roberto Merhi finishes Malaysian GP

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

    Simply finishing the race must go down as an incredible achievement for Manor.

  16. Confusion and strategy error costs Hamilton shot at race win (VIDEO)

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Hamilton 293d Getty Images

    Did a mistake in Q1 on Saturday cost Lewis Hamilton a chance to win the Malaysian Grand Prix?

  17. Verstappen becomes youngest points scorer in F1 history

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:15 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia Getty Images

    Breaking the record by over two years, Max Verstappen cemented his place in the F1 history books in Malaysia on Sunday.

  18. Arrivabene: Ferrari is back, but must keep focused (VIDEO)

    Mar 29, 2015, 6:30 AM EDT

    Sebastian Vettel AP

    Ferrari team principal oversees his first victory since taking the helm at Maranello.

  19. Rosberg tells Ferrari “game on!” after Vettel’s Malaysia win (VIDEO)

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:56 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia Getty Images

    German driver didn’t expect his challenge to Ferrari in Australia to be taken up so quickly.

  20. Hamilton: Ferrari simply too fast for Mercedes in Malaysia

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:36 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-MAS-F1 Getty Images

    British driver humble in defeat after losing out to Vettel and Ferrari in Malaysia.