By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
Motorsports Tribune reviews the season of the top 12 drivers from the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Our list continues with the seventh-place finisher, Sebastien Bourdais.
Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Sealmaster Honda
- 2018: 7th in the championship
- Wins: 1, Top 5: 5, Top 10: 8, Poles: 1, Laps Led: 108
- Best Finish: 1st (St. Petersburg)
After a strong start to the season with a victory at St. Petersburg and pole at Phoenix, it’s hard to picture a better start to the 2018 IndyCar season for Sebastien Bourdais. Bad luck came and went through the year, but Bourdais was a human highlight reel with how his season went, especially in the first four races.
Bourdais led 30 laps and had a front row seat to the late-race restart contact between Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens. Bourdais veered clear of trouble and was able to bring Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan their first victory after pairing up with Dale Coyne to co-own the Frenchman’s entry.
The four-time Champ Car champion led early at Phoenix but a pit stop miscue early in the race set him back in the field and he finished 13th. The very next week at Long Beach, Bourdais pulled off a pass that seemed to defy the laws of physics but instead defied the laws of INDYCAR as he used part of the pit exit lane to set up the pass around Scott Dixon, Spencer Pigot and Matheus Leist.
Bourdais finished 13th at Long Beach after a mid-race pit stop was ever so slightly mis-timed with a yellow flag. The next race at Barber Motorsports Park nearly had redemption on the table for Bourdais. His race engineer/strategist Craig Hampson had him out front late in the race on Monday, but rain was coming down and Bourdais was on dry weather tires. Bourdais could not maintain proper control of the car in the challenging conditions and pitted for rain tires late but a fourth place finish was a great points day.
Bourdais had another top-five finish at the INDYCAR Grand Prix but then was a victim of a rather odd-looking spin at the 102nd Indianapolis 500 where Bourdais would finish 28th.
The summer stretch would only give Bourdais an eighth place finish at Texas Motor Speedway to smile about but what perhaps was his most rewarding drive came at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Starting last, Bourdais carved through the field in a caution-free race and went from 24th to sixth making pass after pass, putting on a masterful display on a track where passing has been difficult.
The next two oval races would test Bourdais quite a lot. After Wickens had his incident at Pocono Raceway, Bourdais was quite unhappy with the fence repairs, nearly making the decision to stop racing because of the fence’s condition. Once he got back in the car, however, Bourdais set the fastest lap of the race and finished fourth.
Gateway would be a short night, however. Bourdais lost control of his car coming through Turn 2 on the first lap of the race behind a couple of other cars and hit the wall with the right front of the car after correcting the car out of a spin.
However, the DCRw/VS crew were put through probably their most difficult test of the year at Portland on Labor Day weekend. Bourdais’s No. 18 Gorilla Automotive Products Honda went off track in an incident the crew managed to repair the car with parts taken from the backup car and such, FrankenCar was born with bodywork taken from the normal Sealmaster colors.
Bourdais qualified fourth, just .5414 seconds off of pole with a hodgepodge of a car and finished third, just under two seconds from winner Takuma Sato. After finishing sixth at Sonoma, Bourdais then went to Petit Le Mans, helping Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller win the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
If Hampson can put Bourdais in a position to win, then Dale Coyne Racing will have a genuine championship contender on their hands in 2018 with but a fraction of the budget that the larger teams spend. If DCR can put a solid second car on the grid or even a third, it might help their program that much more and put Bourdais that much closer to yet another series championship.