Sebastien Bourdais’ debut with KVSH Racing, in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, didn’t bear the fruits of success he or his new team so desired.
Bourdais’ striking black-and-green No. 11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet seemingly had a target on its back, as the “bespectacled badass” was hit like a piñata during the race after starting from an unlucky 13th – the same place he finished.
“It was a tough race. Guys from back of the grid ruined the start of the race and I lost four positions on the first lap. I also bumped into Juan Pablo Montoya when the field checked up in Turn 8,” Bourdais said of the start of his race.
He was also forced off sequence when he needed to pit on Lap 12 to replace his front wing, and needed to save fuel for the rest of the race.
The problem was exacerbated as when he was due to make his third stop, he had to stay out as a caution flew.
“When I finally pitted I was out of fuel and the car stalled, but we were still in a good position and I knew I had a fast car,” he said. “Then I was penalized for not packing up fast enough, which was pretty rough because I was packed up before the pits opened and no one was harmed.”
Bourdais praised his new crew and the car’s pace, which he deemed a “rocketship.”
“That really set us back, but we kept digging,” he said. “It was such a valiant effort by the whole team and to finish where we started is very frustrating. I really feel bad for the guys because they worked so hard and for all our sponsors who came to the race and supported us. The only positive note is that we have a fast car so our time will come.”
Bourdais has three past wins at the next round of the championship in Long Beach, all in succession from 2005 through 2007 while driving for Newman/Haas Racing in the Champ Car World Series. He has finished 17th and 15th at Long Beach the last two years driving for Dragon Racing.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.