IndyCar: Transcript of Derrick Walker’s Toronto media availability

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INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Derrick Walker spoke to the media after the postponement of race one in Toronto on Saturday. A transcript of that interview is below:

Derrick Walker: We’re talking with promoter, TV, teams in that order. Might be somewhere around 10:30.

Q: Will it be two full races?

DW: It will be two complete races. We’re looking at the lengths now because we’ve moved the schedule around. Now we’re jamming the schedule around.

Q: There seemed to be some indecision on the part of INDYCAR to get the cars out and bring them in. What was the thinking?

DW: No indecision, surprisingly enough. We were just eyeballing the conditions. The conditions looked like almost we could get it in, we were moving back and forward based on the rain.

Q: Was there any thinking as to whether to start the race behind the pace car? Maybe let the cars blow it off?

DW: We tried that for a few laps as you saw… no we didn’t and no we couldn’t (throw the green with the yellow flag). I think it would have been crazy to start the race today. It was just … it didn’t look like a lot of water but when you get out there and look it was enough.

The other factor that happens here is you get a lot of oils coming out, when it comes out on the blacktop. It’s quite slippery and there’s a lot of water. I don’t think we did the wrong thing. We waited and waited and waited; part of the indecision, as you put it, was going as late as we possibly could to hold. We wanted to try to get the race in. Television hung in as late as possible.

We watched the weather channel, watched the rain. We thought if we could get the race started, maybe we could have kept it going. But visibility was just crazy.

Q: Can you tell us for certain, does IndyCar race in the rain?

DW: I’m here to tell you we do race in the rain. But we also do think of our drivers and our fans’ safety. Racing in the rain is great; but, you can’t throw everyone in the fence because the conditions are archaic. I think they were today.

Q: Any opposition from teams or unanimous with teams?

DW: We haven’t actually talked to the teams about what happened. We saw a lot of instant messages and one or two interviews. I think they know what it’s all about. We tried to fit it in and make it work.

The conditions were wet but not as wet as this one was. The slipperiness of that standing water, everybody looked at it and said no way, no way.

Q: Visibility was bad too, as well?

DW: Yes it was. But you have to ask yourself, what do you want? Do you want a good race? Or are we gladiators where we get a couple lions out and see who can eat people in two laps? We’re trying to put on a show here.

Q: Worst case scenario, if it’s like this tomorrow, is there a Plan B to come back?

DW: We’d stay here as long as we could to get a race in. For sure.

Q: You could race Monday, if possible?

DW: There is a slim chance, via the promoter, but I think we can get at least one race tomorrow in for sure.

Q: To clarify the three cars sent to back under red, would they regain their original starting position?

DW: Good question (laughter). To explain, there’s a lot of people getting hot about that issue, guys doing work on their cars.

Basically we looked at it – the stewards looked at it – and the race hadn’t started yet. Yeah he crashed during the pace car, parade laps, Car 12, and he was sent to the back. The race hadn’t started so it was still not a penalty as such. When the race was red flagged and everyone went to their cars, some needed more work than others. When one can work on their car, they all could.

When the 12 car disappeared and went back to the truck, we thought it was gone and never coming back. Well they put it together and brought it back. Then we positioned it at the back. Nobody requested any more time to work on the cars.

At the end of the day, the stewards are trying to get everyone back on track, wheels on and make a race out of it. Tomorrow, to answer your question, it’s not final, but would go off the qualifying positions in order. Second race, probably on points.

We need to allow a three or four hour break, three minimum, for the crews to work on their cars.

Q: What about spare cars for the race?

DW: The rules have it where you don’t have an engine in spare cars. When you take an engine off the truck, or from one car to another, they have a spare, you’d eat up all that time turning it around. I don’t think it would work.

If you have a serious accident, you’ve got three hours, four hours to get it fixed. If they don’t they could jump to a spare car. But I think with the time slot, with serious damage, it should be turned around.

Q: What time do you hope to start the first race?

DW: We’re hoping to be going somewhere around the 10:30 timeframe. Wait until you get the official time frame. Second race pretty close to schedule.

Q: How do you compare the conditions of racing in the rain on a road course like Mid-Ohio to a street course like Toronto?

DW: What you tend to find at a lot of road courses, like Mid-Ohio, is that the water comes roaring down the hill. You get about a six-foot wide river that when it’s really heavy it’s just as bad as the backstraight here. All tracks are susceptible; some don’t have the drainage to get rid of it.

On street courses, you have the walls and some drainage holes, but it doesn’t all run and disappear. A lot lies on the surface. It’s unique to street racing. We generally deal with it. We just couldn’t get it started.

Q: Derrick, to clarify, race results from the first race set the grid for race two?

DW: No. It will be, we have a set of qualifying positions to start the first race. The second race, because it’s not had any qualifying, would probably revert to what the rulebook says, which goes by points, driver points in order. That’s more likely what it will be by the rulebook.

Q: Derrick, were you planning to go green when Will Power had his accident, and if you had made it to the green is it your opinion or experience you could had continued to race?

DW: Difficult to say. Will Power, Briscoe, pace car, a few people were diving off. We became increasingly skeptical that each time we tried we saw someone slip off. In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t.

Q: Was the intent to go green?

DW: We were always trying. You can ask your fellow journalist, Curt (Cavin) was in race control and saw the whole drama unfold.

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.