Mazda Road to Indy two-day test underway at Barber

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All three Andersen Promotions-run series in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000, are underway in the Chris Griffis Memorial Road to Indy test this week at Barber Motorsports Park.

Some news and notes about the driver/team combinations to follow:

INDY LIGHTS

  • USF2000 drivers Michael Epps and Alexandre Baron will test for Belardi; Epps is confirmed at Belardi’s USF2000 team while Baron, a two-time race winner last year, will move up to Indy Lights in 2014 with Belardi.
  • Neither of Schmidt Peterson’s drivers are confirmed but Jack Harvey is a strong possibility for one Indy Lights seat.
  • Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham and Lloyd Read are confirmed at their teams and the fourth confirmed 2014 driver, Zack Meyer, is not testing this week.

PRO MAZDA

  • USF2000 2013 drivers Neil Alberico and Scott Hargrove (Cape), Garett Grist (Andretti) and Michael Johnson (JDC) will all move up to Pro Mazda with the same teams. Shelby Blackstock (Andretti) will continue for his second season.
  • Americans Kyle Kaiser, Spencer Pigot and Kyle Connery all raced in Pro Mazda in 2013 but do not have deals confirmed for 2014 as yet. Kaiser and Pigot test for Juncos Racing, and Connery will test for JDC.

USF2000

  • Newcomers to watch at the test include Aaron Telitz, Jack Mitchell Jr. and Harrison Scott. Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., recently won the Skip Barber Race Series Championship Shootout – and a MAZDASPEED Scholarship to compete in USF2000 next year – in the face of very stiff competition, including Eidson, and will drive one day apiece with Afterburner Autosport and ArmsUp Motorsports.
  • Belardi will have all four of its signed drivers testing together for the first time.

ENTRY LISTS

INDY LIGHTS (7)
Belardi Auto Racing: 5 Michael Epps (GBR), 6 Alexandre Baron (FRA)
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: 7 Yann Cunha (BRZ), 77 Jack Harvey (GBR)
Andretti Autosport: 26 Zach Veach (USA), 83 Matthew Brabham (USA)
BHA/Jeffrey Mark Motorsports: 28 Lloyd Read (WAL)

PRO MAZDA (18)
Cape Motorsports w/WTR: 2 Neil Alberico (USA), 3 Scott Hargrove (CAN)
Juncos Racing: 4 Alfonso Celis (MEX), 5 Jose Gutierrez (MEX), 
6 Kyle Kaiser (USA), 7 Spencer Pigot (USA)
JDC Motorsports: 9 Kyle Connery (USA), 19 Harrison Scott (GBR), 
19 Jose Enrique Lopez (VEN), 54 Michael Johnson (USA)
M1 Racing: 10 Robert La Rocca (VEN), 21 Sebastian Arriola (MEX), 
21 Fernando Urrutia (MEX), 37 Jay Horak (USA)
Andretti Autosport: 27 Garett Grist (CAN), 28 Shelby Blackstock (USA)
Team Pelfrey: 81 Pipo Derani (BRZ), 82 Dalton Kellett (CAN)

USF2000 (18)
Cape Motorsports w/WTR: 3 Jake Eidson (USA)
Belardi Auto Racing: 4 Daniel Burkett (CAN), 14 Florian Latorre (FRA), 
41 Nico Jamin (FRA), 44 Michael Epps (GBR)
ArmsUp Motorsports: 6 Timothy Paul (USA), 24 Peter Portante (USA), 
51 Aaron Telitz (USA)
JDC Motorsports: 9 Nathan Blok (CAN), 9 Pato O’Ward (MEX), 
12 Henrik Furuseth (NOR), 19 Clark Toppe (USA)
Afterburner Autosport: 17 Victor Franzoni (BRZ), 18 Harrison Scott (GBR), 
18 Aaron Telitz (USA), 98 Gustavo Myasava (BRZ)
Pabst Racing Services: 21 Will Owen (USA), 77 Austin Cindric (USA)
JAY Motorsports: 91 Jack Mitchell Jr. (USA)

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.