Skip to content

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

Jul 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

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. MST exclusive: BK Racing co-owner Anthony Marlowe apologizes for Cole Whitt/David Ragan tweet controversy

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:23 PM EST

    (Photo courtesy Anthony Marlowe/Twitter) (Photo courtesy Anthony Marlowe/Twitter)

    BK Racing minority owner Anthony Marlowe offers a public apology to MotorSportsTalk on his inadvertent tweet of Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in the No. 34 car for 2015.

  2. Give thanks: NASCAR announcer Steve Byrnes shows ‘progress’ in cancer battle

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:16 PM EST

    Steve Byrnes Steve Byrnes

    Steve Byrnes of Fox Sports gave friends and family a promising Thanksgiving update about his battle with Stage 4 head-and-neck cancer.

  3. Hulkenberg confirmed for Porsche LMP1 at Spa and Le Mans

    Nov 27, 2014, 10:45 AM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Previews Getty Images

    Hulkenberg gets an LMP1 opportunity with Porsche at Spa and Le Mans next season.

  4. What we’re thankful for in the motorsports world, 2014

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Irwin Tools Night Race Getty Images

    What we’re thankful across the wide spectrum of motorsports in 2014.

  5. Spend Black Friday doing a few laps on Charlotte Motor Speedway

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:01 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Terry Renna) AP

    If you’re in the Charlotte area and want to have a great Black Friday experience, head on over to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where for a donation, you can drive on the actual racetrack.

  6. Sam Hornish Jr. has much to be thankful for: new home, renewed Sprint Cup hopes with Richard Petty Motorsports

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:56 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

    Sam Hornish Jr. has a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, most notably a new ride and a new lease on his Sprint Cup driving life with Richard Petty Motorsports.

  7. NBCSN presents 14-hour ‘MECUM MARATHON’ on Thanksgiving Day

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    mecum dealmakers

    NBCSN will present a 14-hour ‘Mecum Marathon’ starting Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

  8. Simon Pagenaud’s Ayrton Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned off

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Getty Images

    Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned for Ayrton Senna Foundation.

  9. Report of Cole Whitt in for David Ragan at Front Row Motorsports ‘not true’

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:29 PM EST

    David Ragan (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Front Row Motorsports officials on Wednesday denied rumors of Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in the No. 34 Ford for 2015.

  10. F1 notes and quotes: Abu Dhabi Test Day 2

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    ADwrap Getty Images

    A rundown through the field after the final day of on-track running for F1 2014.

  11. Several NASCAR AMERICA specials to run over next month

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    nascar america

    Some NASCAR AMERICA specials are on tap before the end of the year.

  12. “Dream come true” for Italian Raffaele Marciello in Ferrari test

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    MarcielloAD1 Getty Images

    Marciello gracious for opportunity, and was thinking of Jules Bianchi throughout the day.

  13. A.J. Foyt still hospitalized but recovering after triple bypass

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Foyt112614 AP

    A.J. Foyt with post-operative complication, but resolved.

  14. Mercedes reserve Wehrlein leads final Abu Dhabi test day to end 2014

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:13 AM EST

    WehrleinAD1 Getty Images

    New Mercedes driver, same place on the charts to close out 2014 F1 season.

  15. Life after Red Bull now beckons for JEV, where a new world awaits

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:31 AM EST

    Vergne 17-11 AP

    What’s next for Jean-Eric Vergne? An analysis of his time in F1, and where to from here.

  16. Jean-Eric Vergne confirms Toro Rosso exit

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:28 AM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    JEV out, and likely another rookie in at Toro Rosso for 2015.

  17. NASCAR: Reddit users provide snapshot of fan reaction to this year’s Chase

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:07 PM EST

    O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Getty Images

    A post-season exit survey provides some very interesting fan data on NASCAR’s latest version of its post-season format.

  18. Steve Letarte: Greg Ives’ familiarity with Hendrick will help Dale Jr., 88 team prosper (VIDEO)

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    Iowa Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    The outgoing crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. also talks about his successor needing to make his own mark.

  19. Delaware court commissioner delays Kurt Busch hearing to Dec. 16

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:45 PM EST

    Ford EcoBoost 400 Getty Images

    The Delaware family court hearing is a separate matter from the ongoing police investigation into allegations of assault against Busch by his ex-girlfriend.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. McMurray (1678)
  2. J. Gordon (1676)
  3. T. Stewart (1599)
  4. J. Johnson (1254)
  5. J. Logano (1199)