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IndyCar 2016 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the field of driver-by-driver reviews following the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Winning once and finishing 14th in points this year was KVSH Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2015: 10th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 145 Laps Led, 9.9 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
  • 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

‘Ol “Seabass” is far from the 14th most talented driver in the field and so 14th in the points standings speaks to a year of missed opportunities. Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser told me after the Watkins Glen race they felt they left easily more than 100 points on the table in road and street races and that probably wouldn’t be far off.

The good first: Bourdais and Vasser played strategy to perfection to win at Detroit for the second straight year, thus extending Bourdais and KVSH Racing’s respective win streaks to three and four seasons apiece. Five top-10 finishes on all five ovals was a welcome surprise. And a rebound to fifth at Watkins Glen after getting caught up in the first corner mess, landing cleanly after going airborne through the Bus Stop, was a decent result.

And now the lost chances: the contact with Scott Dixon at Barber that sent Bourdais to the back of the field. The first lap contact in Road America that required a stop. The late contact with Takuma Sato at Mid-Ohio. And the two early season DNFs at St. Petersburg and the Indianapolis GP. There’s five races of 16th or worse right there, so add 15-25 more points per and there’s your 100 points lost, and the difference between contending for a top-five in points and ending 14th.

Bourdais and KVSH Racing made it through the season thanks to the resolve of team co-owner James “Sulli” Sullivan, to pull a deal together the week of the Phoenix test in February to ensure they were all there, after a winter of team turnover. Bourdais leaves for Dale Coyne Racing next year, which coupled with that team’s engineering moves could allow Bourdais and Coyne to replicate the giant-killing performances turned in by the late gentle giant, Justin Wilson.

The win with Ford at his hometown race at Le Mans was undoubtedly the highlight of the year for Bourdais, who at 37 still remains one of the fastest drivers, best quotes and most dynamic competitors in the series. He needs a year better than this one down the road, because on the whole 2016 fell short of expectations and potential.