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. Power relieved, thankful to return to front row at Barber

    Apr 25, 2015, 7:11 PM EDT

    PowerBarber2 AP

    Second in qualifying a good day at the office for Will Power, as he’s in search of his first win of the year.

  2. Davey Hamilton to make driving comeback in next week’s IndyCar oval test

    Apr 25, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT

    DaveyKingdom Getty Images

    Davey Hamilton will have a one-off day back behind the wheel of a current day IndyCar, filling in for Townsend Bell at next week’s IndyCar open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  3. Indy Lights: Pigot follows up Barber pole with race one dominance

    Apr 25, 2015, 6:33 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Spencer Pigot dominates Indy Lights flag-to-flag in first race of weekend at Barber.

  4. WSR: Rowland wins Formula Renault 3.5 season-opener at Motorland Aragon

    Apr 25, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    © Renault Sport © Renault Sport

    A surprise in Spain for Rowland as on-track winner Meindert van Buuren is hit with a time penalty for jumping the start.

  5. WEC: Jarvis ready for close battle at Spa and Le Mans

    Apr 25, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone Getty Images

    Audi no. 8 driver pleased with the team’s pace at Silverstone and in the recent test at Paul Ricard.

  6. Power, Penske to the fore in second IndyCar practice at Barber

    Apr 25, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    PowerBarberP2 AP

    Power on top in second IndyCar practice at Barber.

  7. MotoGP: Pedrosa making positive steps in injury recovery

    Apr 25, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    MotoGP Qatar Getty Images

    Spanish rider was sidelined following the Qatar Grand Prix due to an arm pump injury.

  8. Sam Bird previews the Monaco ePrix circuit (VIDEO)

    Apr 25, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    Formula E Championship In Buenos Aires - Cars Complete Shakedown Getty Images

    Preview the track that will host the next Formula E race on May 9.

  9. Dixon fastest in Barber opening practice in the Coca-Cola car

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:17 AM EDT

    Dixon's car in pit lane, and with new signage. Photo: Tony DiZinno Dixon's car in pit lane, and with new signage. Photo: Tony DiZinno

    Scott Dixon takes the Coca-Cola car to the top of the first practice session at Barber.

  10. Villeneuve: Leaving Ferrari may have ended Alonso’s career

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Jacques Villeneuve Getty Images

    Former F1 world champion and Indy 500 winner hits out at Alonso’s move to McLaren and Manor’s inclusion on the grid.

  11. WATCH: IndyCar qualifying from Barber at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Live Extra

    Apr 25, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    Qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ race at Barber has been moved up to 5 p.m. ET, and 4 p.m. CT and local time on NBCSN.

  12. Lewis Hamilton tops British sporting rich list

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain Getty Images

    Two-time F1 world champion named as the richest sportsman in Britain with a wealth of over $130m.

  13. Conor Daly confirmed for Indy 500 return, joins Schmidt Peterson

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Photo: SPM IndyCar Photo: SPM IndyCar

    Conor Daly has been confirmed in the Indianapolis 500 in SPM’s third car.

  14. Honda unveils new 2015 Accord safety car

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Photo: Honda Photo: Honda

    Honda takes the wraps off the new Accord safety car.

  15. Indy Lights: Pigot powers to pole in Barber

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Pigot scores his first Indy Lights pole at Barber.

  16. Formula E: Di Grassi anticipating “massive” Monaco ePrix

    Apr 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    AUTO-FORMULAE-URU-RACE Getty Images

    Formula E’s championship leader looks ahead to his adopted home race in Monaco on May 9.

  17. Palmer comfortable in Lotus reserve role after FP1 run-outs

    Apr 24, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    2014 GP2 champion reflects on the opening four races of the year with Lotus.

  18. WSR: Comtec pulls out of first Formula Renault 3.5 round, parts company with Regalia after three days

    Apr 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    Grid falls to 20 cars for the Formula Renault 3.5 opener in Spain this weekend.

  19. Report: Indian government recognizes national motorsport federation, aiding F1 hopes

    Apr 24, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of India - Race Getty Images

    The Indian Grand Prix was last held in 2013 at the Buddh International Circuit.