Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama - Day 2

After Toronto success, Bourdais confident going into Mid-Ohio

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A busted trophy wasn’t going to bring Sebastien Bourdais down after scoring his first American open-wheel podium finish since 2007.

“I was so damn happy that we finally got a [good] result,” the Frenchman recalled this morning during an INDYCAR conference call. “Anything could have happened – I could’ve fallen off the podium – it would not have mattered at that point.

“Nobody could take away that result we were looking for. We’re not looking for trophies, we’re looking for results.”

Bourdais’ mishap with his runner-up prize following Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader has been replayed many times and has likely caused more than a few chuckles. But his results at Exhibition Place were nothing to laugh at: Second in Race 1 and third in Race 2 – the best finishes for his Dragon Racing team in IZOD IndyCar Series competition.

Now, the scene has shifted to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for this weekend’s Honda Indy 200, in which he finished fourth last season (his best showing in 2012). Yesterday, he was fourth-quickest in the series’ Open Test on the 2.26-mile road course.

Bourdais was hesitant to say that Toronto marked a true shift in momentum for his team, instead maintaining that they simply found improvements on the car that helped them get in the lead pack. He also noted the contributions of new engineer Tom Brown, who took over duties for Bourdais’ No. 7 Chevrolet in Canada.

“When Firestone changed the tires for 2013, it just threw us…Every set-up we had from 2012 was just not working anymore, and everyone’s had to step up their game,” said Bourdais. “We had to look where we were stuck, and we just could not find the gains we needed to get back the form we had at the end of last year.

“Tom definitely looked at that and he had a couple of different ideas from his previous years’ experience, and [it] just kind of started to creep in the right direction…We definitely have a direction now of where we need to put the car in order to be competitive, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Qualifying well on Saturday will be critical for Bourdais and Dragon to keep building on their performances from two weeks ago. Mid-Ohio’s flowing, technical nature always makes it very difficult to nail down a ‘perfect lap’ there, and while Bourdais wouldn’t call it the toughest place on the IndyCar circuit to achieve one (he saved that distinction for the street courses, citing their relative bumpiness), he said that it was “one of the most exciting places” when everything does come together.

“It is a very, very committing exercise where you’ve got to hang it all out and get the balance just perfect, sometimes being on the ragged edge, [the car] being a little oversteer-y, and you definitely can’t leave everything behind,” he said. “You have to just hang it all out there, or you just don’t make the cut.”

Watch this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio online and on your mobile device.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.