ST. PETERSBURG — Sébastien Bourdais has a new challenge ahead of him racing in IndyCar’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg later this month.
The coronavirus made no exception for the racing world when the Grand Prix was canceled back in March (when it’s typically held). Now, the St. Petersburg resident and two-time Grand Prix winner is expecting Florida’s fall weather to make an impact on the rescheduled Oct. 25 race.
“It can be anything,” Bourdais said Wednesday. “It’s either going to be hot, wet, both, cold, it’s just going to throw a wrench in the system, for sure. If one of those cold fronts comes through, then it’s anybody’s guess.”
When the race was originally called off, Bourdais was out on his boat with his family.
“I knew it was just not going to happen,” Bourdais, 41, said. “As soon as the NBA basically (suspended its season), the domino effect was inevitable.”
And now the race that was supposed to be the season opener for the IndyCar series is its finale.
“We couldn’t be any happier,” Bouardais said. “It’s just a great opportunity, because it allows us to have fans again and not just go over what happened back in March. I mean, it was just painful. We were all ready to go, and the cars were ready. Everybody was on site. We went from running a normal event to running an event with no fans to running no event, period.”
During the pandemic, Bourdais spent a lot of time with his wife, Claire Ragot, and two children, Emma and Alex, goofing around at home and on the boat, eventually making their way out to the beaches when they reopened.
Working out like a “mad man” to keep in shape — and have something to do — Bourdais was a familiar sight riding around on his Giant bicycle.
“I think I did like 550 miles in May and the same in June,” he said. “Trying to stay busy.”
Bourdais' year improved as he was hired by A.J. Foyt Racing in September to drive full-time for the 2021 season. He joined Foyt’s team for last week’s IndyCar doubleheader in Indianapolis and will drive Foyt’s No. 14 Chevrolet in the Grand Prix.
“He’s a great guy, a true racer,” Bourdais said of the four-time Indy 500 champion. “And just like true racers, he hates losing, so we’re trying to start something and steer the boat in the right direction.”
Bourdais was fired from Dale Coyne Racing in November, ending his season “unexpectedly” and turning the situation into a “crapshoot” for him.
But a full season with JDC-Miller Cadillac Motorsports (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) gave Bourdais the “lifeline” he needed to get back on track.
“It just gives us a good platform to start and kickstart 2021,” he said, “which for us, is kind of what we’re doing, really, on top of fighting for something pretty significant.”
Bourdais is looking forward to racing again in the streets of downtown St. Petersburg.
“Street courses are always special,” he said. “There’s not one that looks alike and the vibe, the proximity of the fans and it’s completely unforgiving. You make one mistake and you pay for it right away.”
When/where: Oct. 23-25, St. Petersburg.
Schedule: The first two days start at 8:30 a.m., the final day at 9:30. The marquee race is at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 25 and will be broadcast by NBC.
Tickets: Previously purchased tickets, which were not already deferred, will be valid for gate entry on the corresponding days of the postponed event. A limited number of tickets can be purchased in advance at gpstpete.com.
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