By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
TORONTO — Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato both qualified in the top 10 for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto but it was what happened at the end of Practice 3 that helped define the rest of their day on Saturday.
At the end of the Saturday morning practice session, the NTT IndyCar Series gave all drivers time to do one flying lap following a red flag for Graham Rahal spinning into the tire barrier at Turn 1. Sato came out ahead of Bourdais since the Japanese driver’s pit is ahead of the Frenchman’s.
Bourdais then overtook Sato as the pair were on their way to Turn 3. Sato claimed that the No. 18 Mouser Honda squeezed the No. 30 Panasonic/MiJack Honda on the out lap and nearly hit Josef Newgarden a few corners later. After both cars were in their respective pit boxes, Sato went to see Bourdais. It was at that point that things got heated between the two of them.
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“I have absolutely no idea what [Bourdais] was trying to achieve,” said Sato. “After that I came to him and asked him what he was trying to achieve and he just went crazy. He basically had so much movement, INDYCAR was not happy with him.”
Bourdais saw things differently.
“He blew his mind, I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” said Bourdais. “No idea, he hasn’t come and apologized or explained what his thought was, he just started yelling and grabbing my helmet. I just passed him on the out lap and he blew his mind.”
It could be seen as a continuation of a rising rivalry between two of the eldest drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series. Bourdais felt that Sato ruined his race at Texas while being three laps down and the two also had contact on the first lap at Road America.
“How should I have reacted to that for those instances when [today] really was a non-event and he lost his mind,” asked Bourdais. “I’m just a little surprised and disappointed that the series didn’t take any action because that stuff is unacceptable, we’re both race car drivers, professional race car drivers and we should behave and react as such and that was not a display of professionalism.”
Bourdais’s fastest lap in the second round of knockout qualifying was 58.7781 seconds around the 11 turn, 1.786 mile street circuit, just 14 hundredths of a second slower than the time it would’ve taken to advance to the Firestone Fast Six. Sato was 13 hundredths slower than the 2014 Saturday winner at Toronto.
For Bourdais, this was a major improvement over starting 17th.
“It was okay, it’s just that everybody steps up their game and you look at it, it’s so close,” said Bourdais. “When you miss the fast six by a tenth, sometimes you’re on the right side of it and sometimes you’re on the wrong side of it but when it’s that close, you can only bite yourself for not bringing it to the team. I hate not being able to pull that lap, I’ve done it before and I just didn’t do it today.”
Sato’s qualifying performance is remarkable given that the team lost nearly all of the Friday afternoon practice session fixing the car after the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner had wall contact that damaged the suspension.
Simon Pagenaud won the pole for Sunday’s 85 lap race. The race will air on NBCSN starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.