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. Off The Grid Mexico Kicks Off on NBCSports.com (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT

    Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg AP

    Off the Grid Mexico kicks off with episode one of a six-part digital series.

  2. Mardenborough, two spectators released from hospital after Nurburgring accident

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT

    Photo: NISMO Photo: NISMO

    Jann Mardenborough and two spectators were released after this weekend’s VLN crash at the Nurburgring.

  3. Patron ESM heads to Paul Ricard (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT

    Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports

    ESM recaps its test from the Prologue at Paul Ricard.

  4. IMS releases statement in wake of Indiana RFRA legislation

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT

    IMS Pagoda Getty Images

    IMS statement comes out after Indiana’s recent religious freedom legislation.

  5. IndyCar notes: Rahal’s questionable penalty, one-off drivers, rookies have tough days

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    KimballRahal AP

    Catching up on the rest of the action from St. Petersburg, with a run through the moments of contact that triggered avoidable contact penalties.

  6. The Rolling Stones to hit IMS on July 4

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    StonesIMS

    Rolling Stones to play at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  7. Spectator injured but in stable condition after being hit by debris at St. Pete race

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:33 AM EDT

    StpDebris AP

    Loose debris hit by a car, then goes over wall and hits a fan outside Turn 10 at St. Petersburg.

  8. Hawksworth, Filippi score solid top-10s to open season at St. Petersburg

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    HawkStp15 AP

    Hawksworth, Filippi impress on opening outings with their new teams in St. Petersburg.

  9. Experience trumps youth on IndyCar’s opening weekend with aero kits

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin AP

    IndyCar’s “old guard” reigned in St. Petersburg, as the new manufacturer aero kits debuted.

  10. Moto GP: Rossi wins opening-round thriller in Qatar

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    MotoGP Qatar Getty Images

    Victory number 70 of the Italian’s remarkable Moto GP career.

  11. Ecclestone considering creation of all-female grand prix series

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

    However, Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes that women should be reaching F1 in a more organic way.

  12. IndyCar: Bourdais opens strong for KVSH; Coletti impresses despite late stop for KV

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    SebStp AP

    KVSH’s Bourdais gets result after a consistent drive; KV’s Coletti stars but fades after late race splash-and-dash for fuel.

  13. St. Petersburg notes: Alberico, Eidson, Beretta, Jenner score Sunday wins

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Photo: Pro Mazda Photo: Pro Mazda

    Pro Mazda, USF2000, Pirelli World Challenge, SST roundup from St. Petersburg.

  14. Chevrolet teams dominate IndyCar’s season opener, new aero kit era

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    ChevySTPdomination AP

    Chevrolet aero kits dominate on debut at St. Petersburg.

  15. Ericsson frustrated to spin out early in Malaysia

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Marcus Ericsson AP

    Swedish driver was fighting in the points before spinning off into the gravel on lap three in Malaysia.

  16. Wolff surprised by Ferrari win, but defends Mercedes strategy calls

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Australian F1 Grand Prix - Previews Getty Images

    Wolff defends the decision to fit Lewis Hamilton with hard tires at his final pit stop.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.