After Toronto success, Bourdais confident going into Mid-Ohio

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A busted trophy wasn’t going to bring Sebastien Bourdais down after scoring his first American open-wheel podium finish since 2007.

“I was so damn happy that we finally got a [good] result,” the Frenchman recalled this morning during an INDYCAR conference call. “Anything could have happened – I could’ve fallen off the podium – it would not have mattered at that point.

“Nobody could take away that result we were looking for. We’re not looking for trophies, we’re looking for results.”

Bourdais’ mishap with his runner-up prize following Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader has been replayed many times and has likely caused more than a few chuckles. But his results at Exhibition Place were nothing to laugh at: Second in Race 1 and third in Race 2 – the best finishes for his Dragon Racing team in IZOD IndyCar Series competition.

Now, the scene has shifted to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for this weekend’s Honda Indy 200, in which he finished fourth last season (his best showing in 2012). Yesterday, he was fourth-quickest in the series’ Open Test on the 2.26-mile road course.

Bourdais was hesitant to say that Toronto marked a true shift in momentum for his team, instead maintaining that they simply found improvements on the car that helped them get in the lead pack. He also noted the contributions of new engineer Tom Brown, who took over duties for Bourdais’ No. 7 Chevrolet in Canada.

“When Firestone changed the tires for 2013, it just threw us…Every set-up we had from 2012 was just not working anymore, and everyone’s had to step up their game,” said Bourdais. “We had to look where we were stuck, and we just could not find the gains we needed to get back the form we had at the end of last year.

“Tom definitely looked at that and he had a couple of different ideas from his previous years’ experience, and [it] just kind of started to creep in the right direction…We definitely have a direction now of where we need to put the car in order to be competitive, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Qualifying well on Saturday will be critical for Bourdais and Dragon to keep building on their performances from two weeks ago. Mid-Ohio’s flowing, technical nature always makes it very difficult to nail down a ‘perfect lap’ there, and while Bourdais wouldn’t call it the toughest place on the IndyCar circuit to achieve one (he saved that distinction for the street courses, citing their relative bumpiness), he said that it was “one of the most exciting places” when everything does come together.

“It is a very, very committing exercise where you’ve got to hang it all out and get the balance just perfect, sometimes being on the ragged edge, [the car] being a little oversteer-y, and you definitely can’t leave everything behind,” he said. “You have to just hang it all out there, or you just don’t make the cut.”

Watch this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio online and on your mobile device.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”