Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sebastien Bourdais again starting from scratch entering Indy 500

TAMPA

St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais' first season in the IndyCar Series has been filled with one of the toughest things for a driver to do.

Nothing.

Between a missing engine heading into the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and a manufacturer switch that cut almost all of his track time before Sunday's Indianapolis 500, Bourdais has been watching almost as much as he has been racing.

"What's been toughest so far is all the waiting that went on," Bourdais said Monday after flying home for a few days of rest.

The waiting began in the offseason, soon after the four-time Champ Car series champion signed with Dragon Racing. The team's engine manufacturer, Lotus, started its production later than Chevrolet and Honda and couldn't catch up.

His No. 7 Dallara DW12 didn't receive its engine until a few days before St. Petersburg's grand prix. He qualified last in the 26-car field.

"Everybody had expectations," Bourdais said, "but at the same time it was like, 'Whoa, we really need to weigh what's happening here because the expectations have to be reasonable.' "

The rest of the season has continued to be a test of the 33-year-old native Frenchman's patience. He rose to third place in St. Petersburg before car problems forced him to drop out after 73 laps.

Bourdais has qualified outside the top 15 in every race so far. His only top-10 came at the Grand Prix of Alabama when he waited for competitors' tires to wear before charging to finish ninth.

His early struggles this season are a far cry from the successful career Bourdais has established. He earned five top-10 finishes in nine races during a part-time season last year, and only six drivers have more North American open-wheel series victories than Bourdais (31).

"It's a good challenge for me, because it's one thing to get on a team where everything is sorted out and you've got the best stuff," Bourdais said. "It's another one to build up and get there with a team from scratch, which really is what it is."

Leading up to Sunday's 96th Indianapolis 500, Bourdais and his crew are starting from scratch again.

After a lawsuit and days with an idle car, his team reached a deal Thursday to switch from a Lotus engine to a Chevrolet. That gave his team less than 48 hours to learn their new machine and get it ready to qualify for the season's biggest race on one of the world's most iconic tracks.

"It kind of feels like St. Pete all over again," Bourdais said.

The difference is that Bourdais' waiting could end soon.

As Lotus struggled — Bourdais has the engine's only top-10 finish so far — Chevy has dominated by winning all four races and claiming four of the five poles including Ryan Briscoe at Indy. Chevrolet engines make up the entire first two rows for Sunday's race.

But Bourdais isn't there yet. With little practice time, he failed to qualify on the first day and will start 25th. His team has only one day on the track this week to test race setups.

Bourdais said it's still an improvement from where he might have been without the switch. His qualifying speed (223.760) was 9 mph quicker than the fastest Lotus, and with seven road/street courses left on the schedule including a Detroit street race the week after Indy, Bourdais remains optimistic that his waiting will pay off.

"It's not going to be easy, but I'm very much looking forward to after Indy," Bourdais said. "The season starts in Detroit."

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

Sebastien Bourdais again starting from scratch entering Indy 500 05/22/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    Nba

    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium

    Bucs

    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  5. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]