Sebastien Bourdais

INDYCAR

Bourdais helping Coyne drivers at Toronto, eyes return

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TORONTO (AP) Sebastien Bourdais is trading in his helmet this weekend for the IndyCar race in Toronto. And he is looking ahead to a possible return near the end of the season.

The Frenchman is returning to the race track in a mentorship role for Dale Coyne Racing just two months after a crash during qualifying for the Indy 500. The two-time Toronto winner will help out team rookies Ed Jones and Esteban Gutierrez. Bourdais finished seventh in Toronto last year.

Bourdais fractured his pelvis , a hip and two ribs when his car exploded into pieces and spun through Turn 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after hitting the wall at 227 mph.

“If I see something, then I’ll try and help, and if I don’t, then I’ll just shut up and see what happens,” Bourdais said Thursday.

“I’ve been around this place a lot, but there’s only so much you can do from the outside so we’ll see how I can help them. It was important for me and the team to show up for the first time since the accident and just get to see everybody and try and contribute to the effort.”

Bourdais, 38, was walking without crutches and says his progress is ahead of schedule. He is not ruling out a return this season.

“Unless I get in the car in testing and call it quits because I’m not ready, the plan is to do Watkins and Sonoma,” Bourdais said of the final two races of the season. “That’s been my goal since really looking at the time frame and where we were going to be at the six weeks weight bearing, the eight weeks walking.”

Seeing the four-time IndyCar Series champion back around the track was a welcome sight. Will Power stopped to chat with Bourdais after the news conference.

“It’s great to see him back, can’t wait to see him in a car,” he said.

Bourdais, who started the season with a win at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, said that he has been starting to exercise again, which includes some cycling.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling because there’s some groups that are fairly equal side to side and one little thing that you feel very vulnerable,” Bourdais said. “But it’s all coming back nice and slow, but it’s going to be a bit of a process for sure.”

Being in a coaching position is nothing new for Bourdais, but it’s never come at the expense of him being sidelined. He said he’s fine with the mentorship role even though it’s tough not to be in the car.

“I’ve tried to be a good patient, not trying to rush things and do anything stupid,” he said. “But obviously now that I’m feeling not 100 percent but not far from it either, it’s definitely kind of itching to get back into the car.”

 

Bourdais to attend Honda Indy Toronto this weekend

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Sebastien Bourdais will make his first trip to a race track since the Indianapolis 500, as he’ll join Dale Coyne Racing drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Ed Jones on site at this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CNBC).

The Frenchman won the season-opening race of the year at St. Petersburg on a street course and followed it up with a runner-up finish at Long Beach.

After his crash at Indianapolis in qualifying where he sustained pelvic fractures and a hip injury, Bourdais made it back to the track at the ‘500 race morning for his first formal media availability.

Bourdais posted last week he was walking again, which was awesome to witness.

Now, he’ll attend Toronto – a track he’s won at before, most recently in 2014 with KVSH Racing – to support the team’s pair of rookies as they’ll look to succeed in their final street course starts of the year.

Gutierrez made his debut in IndyCar at the Detroit double while Jones has three top-10 finishes in four street course starts (10th at St. Petersburg, sixth at Long Beach, ninth at Detroit race one).

“It’s been an incredible challenge so far to jump from a street course, to a road course to a short oval and now back to a street course,” said Gutierrez, who finished an impressive 13th in his oval debut at Iowa.

“Three different types of racing in a very short period of time, but it’s been very fun.  Now for Toronto, I don’t know a lot about the track as I’ve never been there before but I’ve been told that it’s very bumpy! It will be important to have a stable car over the bumps, so hopefully we can find a good set up.”

Jones, who has finished fifth, third, sixth and fifth in four Indy Lights starts in Toronto, looks for a bounce back weekend after a tough result in Iowa, where he qualified eighth but lost the balance and finished 18th. He’s also battling a left foot injury.

“Toronto is one of my favorite races on the calendar even if I didn’t do that great there in Indy Lights,” said the Dubai-based Brit. “It’s a difficult track and very bumpy. It’s also very technical and tight in some sections so all that combined makes it very tricky but I can’t wait to get on track.

“It will be interesting to see how I get on after struggling at Detroit, but we were good at St. Petersburg and Long Beach. I’m hoping my foot will be better when we get there because there is much more braking than this last weekend in Iowa, but it should be alright. I’ll be resting it up this week.”

Bourdais ‘feeling better everyday;’ close to walking properly

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Sebastien Bourdais has posted his latest update on his recovery process from pelvic fractures and hip injuries on Thursday morning, as the Frenchman continues to get back on track after his accident in qualifying May 20 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Bourdais, who was discharged from hospital, returned to IMS track on Indianapolis 500 race day and has since come back home to Florida, said he is progressing well in his recovery and said he is close to walking properly again.

This week is a bit of a tough one for Bourdais, as he isn’t on site in Le Mans with a chance to defend his crown at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as he won the GTE-Pro class in the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand last year.

However, Bourdais’ stead is being filled by Le Mans rookie Tony Kanaan, who is thoroughly soaking up the experience and admits he has the pressure to try to win to match Bourdais’ shoes!

Kanaan made his Ford GT race debut at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, a race the same trio of Mueller, Hand and Bourdais won here in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Seb is French, he lives here, and he won the race, so no pressure!! Very, very easy!” Kanaan laughed to reporters at Le Mans this week.

Bourdais told Motorsport.com earlier this week the unexpected upside of his injuries was that he was happy not to be in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ most recent race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Three drivers have taken his place thus far in his No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing since, with James Davison (Indianapolis 500), Esteban Gutierrez (Detroit) and Tristan Vautier (Texas) on board.

Kanaan after Texas: ‘Everybody is entitled to a bad day’

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Ahead of his biggest racing debut in years, as Tony Kanaan reverts back to being a rookie ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA, Kanaan reflected on his role in last Saturday night’s chaotic Rainguard Water Sealers 600.

Kanaan finished a season-best second in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda after an eventful night. He was involved in the eight-car pileup on Lap 152 that took a lot of cars out, and was penalized with a stop-and-hold plus 20-second penalty for blocking and avoidable contact. Earlier in the race, he came in contact with Alexander Rossi. Despite losing a couple laps, Kanaan recovered them on wave-bys and drove near to the front before the race ended under yellow.

Speaking to reporters at Le Mans, Kanaan explained the nature of the relationship he has with the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series driver fraternity and how he took – and endured – a beating after a rare “off night” in terms of his on-track driving style.

“We’re very unified. I’m one of the drivers that runs the drivers’ association and I think one of the biggest things that we did was try and bring everybody together,” Kanaan explained. “We’re a big family, we race and there are rivalries and stuff, but I don’t know. I don’t have the explanation as to why it’s different from here, but we’re definitely really tight.

“I got a lot of heat last weekend, for sure. My phone was getting bombarded by all the drivers. I got to talk to some of the guys that I needed to apologize to.

“Everybody is entitled to have a bad day, and I think if you admit that and we’re cool, we’re all drivers and we understand what we can and we can’t do.

“At the end of the day, I think for some reason we like each other! We like each other a lot, we think about the big picture and we try to make the series better. Although only one guy wins, I think a lot of the guys there don’t have big egos, and that helps a lot.”

Kanaan said the way the race style played out reverted back to what he termed, like others in the field, a pack race. Granted this was not at the level of low-horsepower pack races back in the IRL days – Kanaan survived through many of those as part of his 20-year career – but it was the closest thing to it since the introduction of the Dallara DW12 chassis in 2012.

Interestingly, the driver meant to be racing at Le Mans instead of Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais, lit into IndyCar’s Texas race in a Motorsport.com article. Kanaan wasn’t quite as graphic in his description.

“Yeah it was totally unexpected,” Kanaan said. “They had changed the race track, the layout of the track, and I didn’t expect the track to be like that. At the end of the day, it became a big, big pack race. I can assure you it will change that for next year.

“It’s a full package. It’s not just the cars. I think the tires as well, we didn’t have any tire degradation, the tires were too good. Everybody had a good car all the way to the end and that obviously didn’t spread the field out.”

Kanaan was able to recover the lost time thanks in part to the competition cautions, which were decided in collaboration between INDYCAR and Firestone owing to blisters that were occurring on multiple cars. Kanaan had no problem with the mutual decision to implement these cautions.

“For me obviously it was a safety issue there, because we were blowing tires, so I don’t think it was a bad thing,” he said.

“I mean we had to create that because Helio had blown the tires with blisters, and Firestone didn’t want to jeopardize anybody’s health. I think at that point it was necessary and we had to do it.”

The dream now shifts to Kanaan’s overdue Le Mans debut, with defending GTE-Pro class winners Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in Bourdais’ stead, sharing the No. 68 Ford GT.

Kanaan completed his requisite 15 laps in the first and only pre-qualifying practice earlier at Le Mans today; as a Platinum-rated rookie he needed only five laps to qualify to compete at Le Mans. Other rookies need to complete 10 laps.

“It’s not bad when you have a weekend off and they invite you to come to Le Mans. It’s a good problem to have,” Kanaan laughed.

“I’m glad that I get to do it and hopefully add some trophies to my trophy case. (If I win, it’d be) at the same level as my 500 and my Daytona 24 Hour win. There is one space for that!

“Seb is French, he lives here, and he won the race, so no pressure!! Very, very easy!”

Kanaan is now set for the first Le Mans qualifying session, which begins shortly at 10 p.m. local time in France, 4 p.m. ET.

Luke Smith contributed to this report from Le Mans 

Tony Kanaan added to Ford, Ganassi Le Mans lineup

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Tony Kanaan will replace Sebastien Bourdais at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Brazilian Verizon IndyCar Series veteran, who made his debut in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, will serve as Bourdais’ injury replacement in the No. 68 entry in the GTE-Pro class, alongside Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. These two and Bourdais won the class last year, fulfilling Ford’s goal of winning at Le Mans 50 years after doing so in 1966.

“We’re very pleased we are able to get a driver of Tony’s experience and talent in the No. 68 Ford GT for the Le Mans 24,” Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance, said in a release. “It’s certainly not the ideal situation and we’re heartbroken that Sébastien won’t be back to defend his race victory, since we know how much that race means to him personally. He is an important part of our family, and we look forward to him making a complete recovery.”

At the Rolex 24, Kanaan got almost eight hours of drive time in the race. He spent just over seven hours, 30 minutes in the No. 69 Ford GT during the race alone and was the third-quickest driver in the category, behind Ganassi teammates Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

“It’s an honor to be named a part of the Ford GT lineup for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing at the Le Mans 24,” Kanaan said. “It’s obviously an unfortunate situation that brought us to this point with Sébastien’s injuries, but I’m going to do my best to take his place and try to help win this amazing race for the team again this year. This race has definitely been on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m thankful that Chip and our partners at Ford have given me this opportunity.”

Kanaan is a Le Mans rookie and will miss the Le Mans Test Day scheduled for June 4, as he will be in his usual No. 10 NTT Data Honda for Ganassi at the IndyCar weekend in Detroit – same as his now IndyCar and Le Mans teammate, Scott Dixon.

From the June 10 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Dixon and Kanaan will be two of several IndyCar full-time drivers who will head straight to Le Mans ahead of scrutineering. Ford’s appointment is scheduled for all four of its cars on Monday, June 12, at 3 p.m. local time.