Through two races, KVSH Racing’s “bespectacled badass” Sebastien Bourdais has shown great pace but endured miserable luck, while KV/AFS’ Sebastian Saavedra has rebounded from midfield grid positions to get better results.
The goal for the pair of both them this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is to get the results off of two good qualifying efforts.
Bourdais, two years ago, turned in one of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ best underdog drives in recent memory – he dragged a down-on-power Lotus engine for Dragon Racing from 17th on the grid to ninth place in the race. That proved the engine manufacturer’s lone top-10 finish in 2012, and both figures are Bourdais’ best results at this circuit in three prior starts.
The Frenchman hasn’t won a North American open-wheel race on a road course since his last Champ Car win at Mexico City in 2007, but he’s still optimistic of finally getting the luck to turn around this week in the black and green No. 11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet.
“This race is very important for KVSH Racing,” Bourdais said. “We had a fast car the first two races of the season, but for various reasons have not been able to get the results we were hoping for. The guys have done a great job setting up and preparing the car. We just need to put everything together and finish off a race weekend with the kind of performance we know we are capable of having.”
Saavedra, meanwhile, has been a quiet and stealthy surprise through two races. Currently 10th in points after finishes of 11th and ninth, Saavedra is a past Barber Motorsports Park winner in Indy Lights (2012) and qualified ninth for this race last year driving for Dragon.
“It’s been an aggressive start of the season and we’ve been able to survive it with good points in the bank,” said the young Colombian. “We need to keep with the top-10 drivers in the championship. Barber is a place I had a good qualifying last year and a bad strategy killed a good finish.”
You can see how well the KV pair does starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.
But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.
The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.
Try putting that on a mantle in your house.
That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.
“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.
“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”
Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.
And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.
“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.
“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.
“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”
Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.
Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.
“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”
But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.
“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.
Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.
It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.
Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.
“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.
“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.
“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”