Bourdais breaks through, finishes 2nd in Toronto Race 1 (VIDEO)

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Normally, it would be a bit odd to see the second-place driver doing burnouts as if he had won the race. But after being unable to log a Top-10 result in the IZOD IndyCar Series’ first 11 races this season, Sebastien Bourdais can be excused for his smoky donuts after his runner-up performance in Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto weekend.

“It just feels like after everything we went through, to be on the podium just feels like a million wins,” Bourdais told NBC Sports Network after claiming his first podium finish since winning the 2007 Champ Car season finale at Mexico City to cap off his fourth consecutive series title.

“I can’t thank these guys enough for giving me the opportunity and for sticking with me. It’s been a rough ride so far, so hopefully, we can turn this thing around and it’s all good from now on.”

Equally jubilant was his Dragon Racing team owner, Jay Penske, whose team has battled through a trying campaign up to this point with Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra.

“It’s just an incredible feeling for our whole team,” Penske said to NBCSN. “We’ve worked so hard for it. This is just a great step forward for the team.”

Bourdais started second and was a contender throughout the day. He took the lead from pole sitter Dario Franchitti on Lap 22 and held it until just after the first cycle of pit stops ended, when Will Power got by him for P1 at Lap 32.

The Frenchman was running in third up to his final stop at Lap 63, which enabled him to get by Will Power for second place but also placed him on the quicker-but-softer red alternate tires. A restart at Lap 65 bunched up the field, and on the restart at Lap 70, Bourdais got the jump on leader Scott Dixon.

However, with no push-to-pass boosts left to protect his lead, Bourdais was unable to hold off a hard-charging Dixon on the black primary tires. Using one of his two remaining boosts on the back stretch, Dixon made the race-winning pass on Bourdais with eight laps remaining.

But that did nothing to dampen the spirits of Bourdais afterwards, who admitted that being at the front was a nerve-wracking experience.

“It was like, ‘What’s gonna happen again?’,” he said. “I was just so stressed out because we’ve had so many good runs but never the end result. It just feels so sweet to be here right now.”

The only real issue for Bourdais this afternoon would appear to be his runner-up trophy, as the crystal cup fell off the base and smashed to pieces just after he claimed it (see above).

One awkward moment later, he simply raised the base to the cheers of the crowd. Trophies can be broken, but the memories of today will surely endure for one of American open-wheel racing’s finest.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.