Edmonton Indy: One-time king Bourdais now measures success differently in his second year with IndyCar
Former Champ Car ace won two of first three Edmonton Indys
EDMONTON - There was a time when Sebastien Bourdais would strap himself into the cockpit of his meticulously tuned race car and just head for the finish line. He was the marquee man in Champ Car, the star driver for Newman Haas Racing. And the winning was easy.
But Bourdais was looking for a new challenge, a new avenue to test his skills, so after claiming four series championships, he left for the Formula One circuit. It was a detour that did not pay dividends for all kinds of reasons so after two years, Bourdais made his way back to North America.
Now with a smaller team and a car that is still a work in progress, Bourdais is measuring his successes in much different ways.
“It does feel very much like going home. IndyCar racing is not that different from what Champ Car used to be,” he said before making his way to Edmonton for another go at the track this weekend at the City Centre Airport. “Obviously, it’s very different circumstances ... but it’s good to be at the beginning of a program and trying to build a foundation of what is hopefully going to be a strong team in the future.
“I don’t regret leaving. If I hadn’t, I would have regretted that for the rest of my life because I would have been wondering ‘what if’. Now at least I know, I didn’t like it, it wasn’t good for me.
“Sometimes, you need to experience it ... and I do think I’m a happier guy now. I’m not chasing something anymore.”
Bourdais, who won two of the three Champ Car races he competed in in Edmonton (he finished second in the other), will race the No. 7 entry for Dragon Racing at the airport this weekend. He’s currently parked in 26th spot in the driver standings and will only race the road courses from here on in.
Dragon Racing was one of the teams that started the season with the Lotus engine, but they have since switched to Chevrolet. The cost of the switch was such that they are now running one car not two, so Katherine Legge is to race on the oval tracks.
“It’s a different mindset now. A different period in my career,” he said. “When you win a race with a car that should win, with one of the best teams, it feels like you’re just doing your job. Being in the Fast Six with a car that nobody would have predicted would be there makes you feel like you’ve exceeded expectations.
“I take a lot of satisfaction from that. I really do enjoy it when I’m driving well and doing my part.”
Last season, his first back, Bourdais drove nine races for Dale Coyne racing and, in four of the final six races, finished sixth in each, starting with Toronto, which was the turnaround for that team.
He’s working with the same engineer again this season, and both were in Sonoma last week for testing, so the hope is that the final four races, starting with Edmonton, will net some results.
In his seven starts this season, Bourdais has had one top 10 finish. In the Toronto Indy, he was on pace for a top five finish when the front of the pack when a late collision with Charlie Kimball took him out of the race.
He’s also the last man to win four consecutive open wheel events — something Ryan Hunter-Reay will attempt to do on Sunday when the main event gets underway at noon.
“When you are a racer and you are giving it your all to get there and you can nearly grab it and it slips away? Nah, you never get used to that, although I’m sure I can handle it much better than I would have five years ago,” he said.
“We want to get back to the top if we can. It’s a tough thing to do when you have to beat the Penskes, the Ganassis and the Andrettis, but I still get a kick out of putting that thing in the Fast Six.
“We have shown some great potential since the beginning of the season, but we’ve just haven’t been able to transfer that into results yet.”
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