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.

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.