With roughly 15 minutes remaining on Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the seemingly inevitable decision was made by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to stop the desperate effort to get Michel Jourdain, Jr. into the 97th Indianapolis 500.
But while the call may have been inevitable, it was no less harder to take for Jourdain. He climbed out of his No. 17 Office Depot Mexico Honda and tried to find solace in the arms of his wife, Nora, burying his head in her shoulder.
With nine spots on the “500” grid up for grabs today and 10 drivers aiming to fill them, one of those drivers was going to go home unhappy this evening at 6 p.m. ET. And that driver was Jourdain, who never found the speed he needed to break into the field despite help from his entire team, including RLL full-time drivers James Jakes and Graham Rahal.
“We tried this morning, James’ setup,” said Jourdain. “He was the fastest of the three cars, and coming out of Turn 4, first lap, I almost spun, and I felt this car isn’t drivable. We put Graham in the car with his exact same setup and everything — [his] steering wheel is in, everything, you know. It was impossible for him to feel a difference. Just couldn’t drive it. He couldn’t go — he came in, got to 204 [miles per hour] and he said, ‘I’m not going any faster.'”
Jourdain indicated that something was structurally wrong with the car (“Something’s bent, broken, bending, loose,” he said), which was raced last month for RLL at Long Beach. He ruled out any issues with the tub itself and said that a backup chassis was never an option for him.
No matter what changes were made to his primary No. 17 Honda on Bump Day, Jourdain was still having to lift noticeably in the corners on late practice runs as he looked for any sort of feel in the cockpit.
The “500” was to be Jourdain’s only race of 2013, but now, he’ll have to watch from afar.
“My sponsors trusted me with this and [it was] a very big project,” he said. “[There’s a] lot of people coming from Mexico next week for this, so it’s hard.”