Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais is ready to return to IndyCar title contention with KVSH

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Some 11 years ago, a young, bespectacled Frenchman emerged in St. Petersburg, Fla. and shook up the proverbial open-wheel establishment.

That driver’s name was Sebastien Bourdais. And 11 years later, in car No. 11, starting in St. Petersburg, Fla., the bespectacled badass is ready to do it again.

Bourdais’ pole for Newman/Haas Racing in the inaugural St. Pete Champ Car race of 2003 marked himself as a star of the future. He won his first races later that year and was an easy rookie-of-the-year.

In 2004, he began his incredible run of four straight Champ Car titles, the latter of which in 2007 propelled him into Formula One the following season.

But since, through 1.5 trying seasons in F1 where he was unable to match eventual four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and a sports car detour, Bourdais returned to the North American shores in a part-time role with Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar in 2011.

Both with Coyne and Dragon Racing the last two years, Bourdais has overachieved given the machinery at his disposal. He hasn’t won, but three podiums with Dragon last year plus other near-misses along the way proves he’s still in IndyCar’s top flight of drivers.

In 2014, he has a chance to re-enter “championship dark horse” status with a move to KVSH Racing. He’ll take over as team leader for Tony Kanaan, as the Indianapolis 500 champion shifts to Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

“For sure this year I do feel like there is a lot of potential, unexplored potential at KV,” Bourdais said during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “Last year was an eye-opener when Tony won the 500. I think it’s pretty much to the credit at KVSH. I could not put a strong enough point on saying that this group can win, that’s for sure.”

That Indy 500 win was validation for a team that hadn’t won since Will Power took the Champ Car finale victory in 2008, and went through a rough three-year period from 2009 to 2011 with a rotating driver lineup.

Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello, with then-third driver E.J. Viso, had their moments in 2012, as did Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro in 2013.

The KVSH reset for 2014, with KV team co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser joined by SH partner James “Sulli” Sullivan, is designed to see the team focus on an entire season campaign rather than target specific races it could do well in the past.

Kanaan, for instance, is one of IndyCar’ best oval racers, but he’s not been able to reach the same heights on road and street courses – particularly in qualifying.

That’s where Bourdais’ bread and butter is, although he’s not a half bad oval racer either (has won in Germany, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee in Champ Car). He’s also had a bunch of testing time this winter, which is a far cry from the Coyne and Dragon experiences.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s been the hardest winter in terms of work that I’ve seen my team go through in a long time,” Bourdais said. “It makes you feel great because you know the level of preparation is quite high.  We’ve been able to test four times.  Another one at Barber before the season starts.”

Bourdais’ 2013 stats were a tale of two halves, with his going way up in comparison to teammate Sebastian Saavedra as Bourdais and then-new engineer Tom Brown gelled immediately. Bourdais ended the year with a 13.8 qualifying average, but he only started worse than 14th once in the second half of nine races (his splits? 16.5 in first 10 races, 10.8 in last nine).

The improved qualifying meant he was better on race day, too. There was the double podium at Toronto and third at Baltimore, but there was also eighth and fifth in Houston and a near-win in Fontana.

He’s got the chops and more importantly, the opportunity. Once Kanaan moved on, James Hinchcliffe was also in the frame for the lead KV seat, but opted instead to remain with Andretti Autosport. With KV needing an ace, Bourdais was the pick to lead the team’s 2014 charge.

Bourdais’ 2014 couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. He finally scored an elusive overall victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, driving with Action Express Racing. Then he won the pole in the same Corvette DP for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

But back in his day job, he’s been quick out of the box in Sebring testing, and he’ll have a chance to win in Florida once more in St. Pete at the end of this month.

It would be a special moment, given it’s his adopted U.S. hometown.

“Yeah, St. Pete has been home for me since 2003 kind of on and off,” he said. “It was my very first race in open-wheel in the U.S.; I started out on the right foot. Great memories from that.  It’s been really a great place for me to spend time, obviously bring the family over.

“When I arrived in the U.S., I was a kid kind of.  I evolved from being married, having a child, then another one.  We’re raising the family in St. Pete in a great neighborhood.  Starting the season at home is a great feeling.  Hopefully we can get things going right and have a great weekend in St. Pete, because it’s not been so great so far since I returned to IndyCar.”

Sauber financial difficulties ‘not a secret’

SOCHI, RUSSIA - APRIL 30: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C35 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during final practice ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 30, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder says that the financial difficulties currently facing the Swiss outfit are “not a secret”, but that it is now in a more comfortable position.

Sauber has faced a great deal of uncertainty in the past three years, but the ship appeared to have been steadied in 2015 after the arrival of drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, both of whom brought sizeable backing.

However, the team was late in paying its staff earlier this year, and is currently running short on spare parts according to Autosport.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Zehnder said that Sauber was already in a more comfortable situation than earlier in the year, but that regular income did not got far enough.

“We’ve been in a more comfortable situation already,” Zehnder said.

“We have financial difficulties, it’s not a secret, but I think the good thing is we are still around. We’re working hard to solve all the problems but it’s not easy.

“An annual budget this year is just a massive one and to just cover it by sponsors and the income from Bernie [Ecclestone] is just not sufficient at the moment.”

Zender also said that the loss in value of the Swiss franc in recent years has hit Sauber hard.

“In 2007, one dollar was 1.5 Swiss francs. Now we have parity. So what we had income in dollars is now worth 50 per cent less,” Zender said.

“Switzerland doesn’t make it really easy. The other thing is that obviously F1 personnel, technical, mechanics, you kind of have a pool in the UK, we don’t have it in Switzerland.

“So for motorsport, it’s maybe not the best place to be although we have wonderful living!”

Lewis Hamilton closes out Russian GP practice fastest

SOCHI, RUSSIA - APRIL 30: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during final practice ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 30, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton edged out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg for top spot in the final practice session for the Russian Grand Prix thanks to a late lap in the 60-minute session.

In a session that saw a number of drivers struggle with the low temperatures and low grip afforded by the Sochi Autodrom circuit, Mercedes once again dominated proceedings as its drivers swept to a one-two finish.

Rosberg and Hamilton exchanged blows throughout the session, having already split top spot in the two sessions on Friday, as Mercedes completed a significant amount of running on the super-soft tire.

Rosberg enjoyed the advantage heading into the final few minutes, running four-tenths of a second clear of Hamilton as the Briton struggled with traffic.

However, Hamilton was able to eke out another late lap with just seconds remaining on the clock, posting a time of 1:36.408 to finish just six-hundredths of a second clear of Rosberg in P1.

Rosberg was left to settle for P2, but Mercedes’ advantage was clear once again as nearest rival Sebastian Vettel finished six-tenths of a second down on Hamilton in P3.

Kimi Raikkonen followed just behind his Ferrari teammate, finishing fourth, while the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas ended the session fifth and sixth.

Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. ran well for Toro Rosso to finish seventh and ninth respectively, with McLaren’s Jenson Button splitting the duo as he bids for the team’s first Q3 berth in over a year later in qualifying. Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10 for Force India.

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC from 8am ET.

Boston race seemed to have a lot of corporate partners lined up

<> on January 5, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.
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The thing that makes me think INDYCAR wanted to make Boston work is that the race – and the people who worked for it – appeared to have a lot of corporate partners lined up.

And to be honest, it takes a lot of corporate partners to get an event off the ground – particularly a first-year street race.

Start first with the Grand Prix of Boston powered by LogMeIn presenting sponsor – LogMeIn – which was announced last October.

Here’s what was said at the time, via a release:

LogMeIn has always been committed to investing in our Boston community and having a positive economic impact on the city and the Fort Point neighborhood.” said W. Sean Ford, LogMeIn’s CMO. “The Grand Prix represents an opportunity to continue to solidify Boston as the hub of innovation for the Internet of Things, and showcase Xively, our award-winning Internet of Things platform and application solution. We are extremely honored to be the presenting sponsor of the first ever INDYCAR race in Boston.”

“This is a great win for the City of Boston – we’re expecting an influx of tourism and support for local businesses, and residents will be able to see one of America’s greatest sports featured right here our City,” added Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The Grand Prix of Boston represents the latest success on the South Boston waterfront, and we’re excited to work with IndyCar and companies like LogMeIn to give the best sports fans in the world one more thing to cheer about.”

And here’s what LogMeIn had to say late Friday, after news the plug was getting pulled on the event, via Bruce Martin for National Speed Sport News:

“We’re really disappointed,” LogMeIn CEO Bill Wagner told the Boston Globe, via National Speed Sport News.“The level of excitement among our employees [about the race] had exceeded my expectations. It had a much broader appeal than a lot of people expected.”

Coors Light came on board. One of the key brands in the MillerCoors portfolio was announced in February as Official Beer for the race. MillerCoors made a bigger investment in INDYCAR earlier this month.

As recently as last week, seven new partners were announced, which according to the event, brought the partner portfolio to more than 100.

Grand Prix of Boston CEO John Casey said in that release, which came out April 21, “An event of this magnitude isn’t possible without corporate partners and we continue to be amazed by the desire of so many Boston and regionally based companies who have joined us for the inaugural Grand Prix of Boston powered by LogMeIn. Having more than one hundred sponsors for this year’s event is an amazing number for a long-standing event, let alone a first time event like the Grand Prix of Boston. We hope to continue to build on this momentum as we get closer to September.”

That release came out only a week after the Grand Prix of Boston announced a Signing of License Agreements and Memorandum of Understanding with City of Boston, State Agencies.

So with the news the race is off now, here’s all the corporate partners who are now wondering, “now what?” when it comes to their investment, listed in order from the event website (before it gets taken down):

  • LogMeIn
  • AllTown Market
  • ExxonMobil
  • Coors Light
  • Firestone
  • Safety 1st
  • Absolut
  • Ivora Ella
  • Verizon
  • Konica Minolta
  • WEEI 93.7 FM / WAAF 97.7/107.3
  • NewBalance
  • Polar
  • Herb Chambers
  • The Westin Boston Waterfront
  • MMB
  • Leader Bank
  • Delta
  • Compass Furnished Apartments
  • Roxbury Technology
  • Massachusetts Fallen Heroes
  • Veteran Homestead
  • The Play Brigade

Beyond that list, there’s more than 30 additional partners listed below those on the website in smaller scale.

IndyCar race in Boston cancelled

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 3: In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Constitution sails into Boston Harbor during an underway Battle of Midway commemoration on June 3, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The underway honored approximately 200 members of Gold Star Families who lost loved ones in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and the Navy's victory at Midway Island in World War II. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
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INDYCAR’s race in Boston is off, first with multiple local reports and later the sanctioning body posting confirmation that the second-to-last race of the year is now back in the TBD department.

Both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, reported the cancellation of the event, which was scheduled for Sept. 2-4, 2016, Labor Day weekend.

John Casey, president of the Grand Prix of Boston, told the Globe the relationship between it and the city is “untenable.”

He also said the race promoters are “willing to do without the headaches of Boston.”

A company email told the Herald that the planned Seaport race cited “deteriorated relations with the city and the state.”

Casey told the Herald that “I feel like I got out of an abusive relationship.”

A statement from Patrick Brophy, Chief of Operations for the City of Boston, reads:

“The City of Boston will always be open to opportunities that will positively showcase our city, however as we continued to work with Boston Grand Prix they were unwilling or unable to meet the necessary requirements to hold an event of this size. The Mayor feels strongly in protecting the taxpayers and limiting the impact to residents, and we are not shy that we held them to very high standards.”

INDYCAR released a statement which reads:

INDYCAR was made aware of the news involving the Grand Prix of Boston this evening. We are obviously disappointed with these media reports and are in the process of gathering additional details and will respond accordingly at the appropriate time. At this stage it is premature for INDYCAR to comment further on the situation locally in Boston or the prospect of an alternate event.

Here’s a link to a statement from the Grand Prix of Boston organizers, via IndyCar Radio’s Jake Query:

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., INDYCAR’s parent company told veteran reporter Bruce Martin for National Speed Sport News, “We will assess the situation and see where we go from here. There may be other possibilities for this Labor Day.”

Additional Miles tidbits are below, via the Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin and USA Today Sports‘ Brant James:

An alternative venue could be possible; the Herald suggested it could move to Providence.

The Boston race weekend affects more than just IndyCar. The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America and SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks, Presented by TRAXXAS were also on the dance card.

MotorSportsTalk has additionally requested comment from Grand Prix of Boston event organizers, and will update this post with that when it becomes available.