By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The latest twist to the NTT IndyCar Series off-season involves four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais as Dale Coyne Racing released him Friday.
First broken by RACER and later confirmed by the team, they’ll be eyeing for another driver heading into the 2020 season, leaving Bourdais out of a ride.
Coyne thanked Bourdais for his tremendous contributions, highlighted with back-to-back victories at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2017 and 2018.
“I want to thank Sebastien for having the confidence to come back from his Formula 1 tour and join our team in 2011, and again for his commitment to the team during the past three years,” Coyne said. “It is not a decision we take lightly, but due to the ever-changing landscape of Indy car racing, we have no choice but to make a change for 2020. We wish Sebastien all the best with his future racing endeavors.”
According to Jenna Fryer, one of the main reasons behind DCR’s decision was Honda pulling their engine support. Therefore, they couldn’t honor Bourdais’ last year of his contract as the Frenchman ended up winless for the first time since 2013 and finished 11th in points in 2019.
“I want to thank Dale, Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) for giving me this opportunity to continue racing in the NTT IndyCar Series over the past few years,” Bourdais said, “I look forward to pursuing new opportunities in racing in the years ahead.”
Bourdais first raced with Coyne in 2011 before moving to Dragon Racing. He wouldn’t return to DCR until 2017 where his season was halted due to a horrific crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying that kept him out for nine races.
The following year, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan’s formed a partnership with Coyne in 2018, winning at the season opener in St. Pete and ultimately finishing seventh in the championship trail.
Both co-owners reflected on Bourdais’ tenure that even goes beyond Coyne as from 2014-16, the 37-time Indy car winner drove for KVSH Racing (Vasser and Sullivan’s former team that was led by Kevin Kalkhoven), scoring four wins.
“We both want to thank Sebastien for the outstanding job he did driving for our teams KVSH Racing and Dale Coyne Racing Vasser-Sullivan,” Vasser and Sullivan said. “Looking back Seb has driven 84 races for us. In that time, we captured poles and won a lot of races. Sebastien is a great friend, a great driver, a true champion and a fantastic ambassador for our partners and Indy car racing. We wish him the best of luck in the next phase of his career where we hope there will be an opportunity for us to race together again.”
As far as Bourdais’ 2020 plans, Fryer tweeted that he’ll be heading to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on a full-time basis.
In 20 starts, Bourdais has four wins to his name, including an overall win in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 2015 12 Hours of Sebring with Action Express Racing. He’s spent the past four seasons driving in the GTLM category for Chip Ganassi Racing, where his last IMSA win was at Daytona in 2017.
An hour after Fryer’s breaking news regarding Bourdais going to IMSA, JDC-Miller MotorSports confirmed that he’ll indeed be a full-time driver in their DPi category.
Joao Barbosa will be his co-driver as they’ll pilot the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. For only the endurance races, 24 Hours of Le Mans Loïc Duval will also be in the car.
Barbosa is thrilled to share the car with him once again, but sad about Coyne letting Bourdais go.
“I was sad to hear that his IndyCar deal did not continue, but on the other hand, I couldn’t really ask for a better teammate,” Barbosa said. “We won Sebring and Daytona together and I feel we can achieve great results again!
While one chapter has closed, Bourdais said he’s excited about sports car racing being his main racing discipline.
“Following two very difficult weeks filled with uncertainty regarding my future, I am thrilled to get the opportunity to race a prototype again, be reunited with Joao, Ken and Brenda (Thompson), and drive for JDC-Miller MotorSports and Mustang Sampling Racing,” Bourdais said. “I want to thank Christian (Fittipaldi) and everyone who made this possible. 2020 can’t come soon enough and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of our Cadillac DPi-V.R.”