This is the third in a series of driver profiles leading into the June 2-4 race weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle.
Sebastien Bourdais was the class of the Champ Car series a decade ago, winning four consecutive championships from 2004-07 while driving for actor Paul Newman and Carl Haas.
Bourdais went on to compete in Formula One for a couple of years before coming back to the IndyCar scene, joining a second-tier team in Dale Coyne Racing in 2011.
Bourdais didn’t duplicate the success he had in Champ Car with Coyne or during the last few years while competing for Jimmy Vasser’s KV Racing, but he did pick up some victories with Vasser, including wins on Belle Isle the last two years.
Now, Bourdais has rejoined Coyne and is off to an outstanding start in the ’17 IndyCar season, winning the opener at St. Petersburg in the No. 18 Honda, then finishing runnerup at Long Beach last Sunday. He arrived in Birmingham, Alabama Thursday afternoon for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Alabama.
Yes, all is well for Bourdais who has been reunited with his Newman-Haas engineer Craig Hampson, along with Olivier Boisson, who was his engineer with Vasser.
And, Bourdais couldn’t be happier, especially getting the results in the underdog role while taking on such premier teams as Team Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.
“I think anybody who said that we were expecting those kind of results is delusional and I don’t think there is any bookmaker in the world that actually even put a penny on it which is a real shame for all of them because you would have made a ton of money,” said Bourdais, 38, of France.
So, why did Bourdais decide to leave Vasser for Coyne?
“It was a complicated time, the package was not really in place and things looked touchy and we had already had a very complicated winter before so we sat down and talked and nothing was really materializing and in the meantime I knew Dale was interested in trying to make something happen,” explained Bourdais.
“When the possibility to get my old engineer from Newman-Haas came along to join Dale it was pretty much a go and when Olivier my engineer from KV became available and came with us, it was like that’s for sure what I want to do, and to be honest I wasn’t going to get an offer from Penske, Ganassi or Andretti. Dale was willing and capable to pay me and as a professional race car driver that goes a long way.”
And, Bourdais knows the importance of having quality engineers.
“It’s the best two engineers that I worked with and the ones that know me the best as well so that’s the critical point,” Bourdais said. “You can be surrounded by a lot of people, but you have to be surrounded by the right ones, the ones you trust, the ones that trust you and the ones who know what you need to go fast in the car.”
Bourdais talked about going up against the big teams like Penske and Ganassi.
“Yes, that’s what we strive for and that’s why we’re trying so hard and at the end of the day it’s extremely satisfying, more so than winning with a top team like I used to with Newman-Haas because people were expecting us to win.”
Detroit Grand Prix
When: June 2-4, Belle Isle (IndyCar races June 3-4)
TV: Both races on ABC
2016 winners: Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power