By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Sebastien Bourdais’s commitment to racing is unparalleled.
So much so that he was disappointed with finishing 10th in Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park – his first Verizon IndyCar Series race after suffering massive injuries during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
Bourdais qualified 19th in the final oval race of the season and was running 14th for much of the first stint of the race. By stopping late under the first caution, Bourdais was able to stretch his first full green flag stint out an extra few laps and was able to lead five laps before pitting.
That time in the lead would be the relative high point as the Frenchman would find himself 15th and last on the lead lap during much of the race until the final restart.
“I got one good restart and that was that and it was track position, track position, track position,” Bourdais said.
“Nobody made a move and it was pretty quick at the end and it was just holding steady. I tried to pass Munoz but I just couldn’t make anything happen.”
As for his performance the rest of the night, Bourdais credits a decision on setup that didn’t go their way.
“All I know is that that thing could have backed itself up into the wall quite a few times,” said Bourdais.
“I turned quite a few too many times to the right tonight and it’s in part because of me. We tried something on the setup in free practice one and I thought it was better and I think it really bit us. I think Ed (Jones) was definitely better and he deserved better than that, he was in front of us all night long and lost some positions in the pits.”
Conventional wisdom might indicate that Bourdais was okay with getting tenth since it was his first race at Gateway and it was his first race back after Indianapolis. That was clearly not the case.
“I’m not there to be 15th, 10th or whatever,” he continued. “(Scott) Dixon showed that the Honda package was actually quite a bit more competitive than I thought it would be this weekend, and so for us to be hanging on and getting a top 10 with a lot of cars dropping out of contention because of crashes is not satisfying, but I’ll take it.
“I think I was hoping that we would be in a kind of Phoenix scenario where we would be a bit more comfortable and competitive. I think mostly because I just didn’t make the right call on that setup change I think I wasn’t up to speed yet and when we started to go a little faster it wasn’t doing what I was hoping for.
“Just got to learn from it and the only really good positive is that it’s a top ten, the car’s in one piece, did all the laps and physically it’s really going to help me for Watkins Glen so just looking forward to next week.”
Car owner Dale Coyne was pleased with how his No. 18 Honda performed with Bourdais back behind the steering wheel.
“I think it was (classic) Sebastien, he moved forward,” Coyne said.
“It was good to get back in a car and get the kinks out and get the arms and the neck going because you can’t ever train for the arm and the neck strength that you need in one of these so this was good so I think we’ll be in shape for next weekend at Watkins Glen.”
Coyne pointed to a massive factor that made Gateway a perfect race for Sebastien to use as his return race.
“I think it’s important for Watkins Glen and Sonoma, but it’s also more important for all winter to [not have to] sit there waiting to get back on an oval,” said Coyne.
“You won’t see an oval until next March or April, so to be able to do an oval now is very helpful for next spring.”