Bourdais Guts Out A Top-10 In IndyCar Comeback

Austin Collins Featured, Verizon IndyCar Series 0 Comments

Sebastien Bourdais (18) leads Conor Daly during Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. (Bret Kelley/IndyCar photo)

MADISON, Ill. — After being forced to sit out for the majority of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season due to injury, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais proved he hasn’t lost his touch and recorded a top-10 result in his comeback race Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Following his horrific Indianapolis 500 qualifying shunt, in which he broke his hip in multiple places and underwent several surgeries, doctors said that the four-time champion would likely not return to his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda this season.

But the determined veteran was not to be denied a chance to return to competition.

First, the goal was the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, then it became Watkins Glen. By the time it was all said and done, Bourdais had a clearance ticket for the last three races of the year and had his peers taking notice.

A few weeks ago, Bourdais tested his Dale Coyne car at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Saturday night, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, Bourdais lined up from the 19th starting position to complete his epic comeback and did so admirably.

Following the initial green-flag start to the race, Bourdais wisely kept his nose as he was attempting to search for his comfort level in green-flag conditions.

That search did not last for long, as by lap 24, he had picked up five positions and moved into 14th position.

As most of the field began to head to pit road for their first green-flag pit stops of the night on lap 61, Bourdais and his Dale Coyne crew played a little bit of pit strategy, which allowed him to actually lead the race for a handful of laps during the pit stop rotation.

Bourdais eventually relinquished the point on lap 67 to pit for fuel, four fresh Firestones and a front wing adjustment. Following the completion of the cycle, Bourdais found himself in 12th position.

That remained the status quo for the Frenchman for the next segment of the race, but during a frantic restart on lap 113, Bourdais wisely moved out of the way, as he did not feel comfortable putting his car in those unpredictable circumstances.

“I had some really complicated restarts,” Bourdais said after the race of those chaotic moments. “I don’t know what was going on, but I got loose three times and I almost stuffed it, and so I went to the back of the pack.”

After taking time to collect his composure, Bourdais began a charge back from 15th into the upper half of the field. He approached each rival one-by-one, without taking any unnecessary risks.

“I finally had a good restart and a couple of wobbles in front of me and I benefited from it,” Bourdais added.

In this fashion, Bourdais had worked his way back into the top-10 by lap 213.

Ultimately, the 10th position was as far as his machine would take him. Nonetheless, after a grueling and tiring race at a track known for its g-forces, a 10th place result was nothing for Bourdais to hang his head about.

In fact, all things considered, he was pleased with the final box score.

“It wasn’t an easy race. We knew the car wasn’t perfect … I’m just really happy with my top 10,” Bourdais admitted afterwards. “It’s a good way to salvage something this weekend.”

While his once-promising championship aspirations are over, after a shock win at St. Petersburg to open the season was derailed by his Indianapolis crash, Bourdais and his Dale Coyne Racing team are determined to mount a serious attack for the prestigious Astor Cup Trophy in 2018.

That charge has to start somewhere, and that might just have been at Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday night.

 

About the Writer

Austin Collins is a history major at Catawba College, with minors in Business Administration and French. Having been born in Charlotte, N.C. and currently residing in nearby Mooresville, Collins has been around racing all his life.

Collins has worked for Derrike Cope Racing in the past and is currently an intern at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His racing interests include NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCar, Formula E, World Rally Championship, the World Endurance Championship and the Dakar Rally. Collins has joined Race Chaser Online as a Formula E correspondent.

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