Starting with last weekend’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais is now on a tour of tracks in which he was unable to participate at during 2017 due to his gruesome injury in last May’s Indy 500 qualifying.
The injury kept Bourdais on the sidelines for races at IMS (Indy 500), the streets of Belle Isle, Texas, Road America, Iowa, Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Pocono before he made an incredible return at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 26, just over three months since shattering his pelvis.
In his absence the Frenchman was a spectator for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, a doubleheader weekend event where Bourdais had stolen a win in both 2015 and 2016.
In those years he finished 1st twice, 8th and 14th, respectable results and vast improvements from earlier runs with Dragon Racing and KVSH Racing.
Instead of being a question mark on the calendar, Detroit has become an opportunity for the 39-year old Champ Car master.
“The weekend (in Detroit) is unique with two races, which is tough on the team but it’s the same for everyone,” said Bourdais. “Obviously, I have had some success there winning a race the last two times we were there (missed 2017 due to injury), but I haven’t really qualified well. That is something we have to work on because qualifying is so important on that circuit.”
Still 8th in the championship standings, Bourdais and his No. 18 SealMaster Honda team lost five positions in the points following a perplexing accident in last weekend’s Indianapolis 500.
During May, Bourdais cleared a mental hurdle by qualifying for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 despite an early exit from the grand race last weekend. A wiggle in the north chute at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway escorted Bourdais from the event on lap 137.
“Unfortunately, Indy didn’t go the way we wanted,” admitted Bourdais. “But the SealMaster Honda No. 18 team has been pretty strong on the street circuits this year. We just need to keep working hard, keep digging and have two strong performances this weekend if we’re going to get back in the championship race.”
While he mentions necessary improvement to the team’s qualifying pace at Detroit, thus far in 2018 it has not been an issue for Bourdais and engineer Craig Hampson.
The team’s worst qualifying effort of the season was in the first race of the year at St. Petersburg – in a race that they won – and it was backed up by a Verizon P1 Award at Phoenix in the very next event.
Since then, Bourdais has qualified a respectable 9th (Long Beach), 3rd (Barber), 3rd (IndyCar GP) and 5th (Indianapolis 500).
All business aside, the four-time Champ Car champion has been pleased to watch the race grow under the watchful eye of Roger Penske and looks forward to another trip to the Motor City.
“Roger (Penske) and his staff do a great job putting on the Belle Isle races. The atmosphere, the facility, every year it just gets better and better.”
For Bourdais’ sake, he hopes his results continue to do much of the same.
Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR Media.