By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
Sebastien Bourdais had a less than ideal qualifying session this past Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as his mistake in the first round brought out a red flag, dropping him to last place for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The No. 18 Sealmaster Honda lined up 24th and relied on an aggressive three stop strategy to get to the front. Pitting for the first time on Lap 10, Bourdais had worked his way up to 19th place. Using the newly-found advantage of having fresher tires than everyone else, The Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan entry found its way to 14th place after the three-stoppers made their first trip down pit lane.
After getting around the lowest placed of the two-stoppers Rene Binder, Bourdais passed Ed Jones on Lap 25 and was halfway up the field at that point. James Hinchcliffe and Zach Veach were his next victims, the latter in an audacious move that had some people wondering how Bourdais managed to pull it off.
Bourdais came in from 10th place on Lap 37 for his second pit stop and only leapfrogged Jordan King to ninth but the four time Champ Car champion wasn’t done passing cars yet. Bourdais got around Graham Rahal on Lap 48 for eighth position and after the final round of stops, the Frenchman was still eighth.
Until, of course, he got around fellow countryman Simon Pagenaud on Lap 75 and Ryan Hunter-Reay on Lap 84 for his final two position gains on the day in the 90 lap race.
“Today was making up for a big mess up yesterday,” said Bourdais. “It’s sad, as this car could have been a winner today with our pace. It was a heck of drive and I don’t think it gets much better than that going from 24th to 6th in a straight-up fight on a track that’s difficult to pass. Obviously, it was a lot of ‘what ifs’ that come to mind. Really happy with the day, but quite disappointed for the group as far as the weekend is concerned, as I think we could have been on the podium.”
Probably the one most proud of Bourdais’s drive was race engineer Craig Hampson.
“We did execute the strategy we had planned from the start and that seems to have worked out pretty well,” said Hampson. “We wanted to get a top ten recovery out of it, we got sixth so that’s better than tenth so I’m pretty pleased. Looks like our car was pretty quick and Sebastien drove extremely well, a lot of really nifty passes, was fast when he needed to be fast and picked people off when they were in his way.
“So I cant complain about that. I’m sure you always sit around going man, if we would’ve started a little higher up could we have won this thing?’ But yesterday’s yesterday, today’s a good result, particularly given the mechanics had to work last night and put an all new gearbox on the car, we’ll take that.”