ST. PETERSBURG – Rare is a sixth considered a “good” finish, but for Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet, it was Sunday.
The Frenchman came second among non-Penske drivers, sixth overall and in the top-10 in the season opener for the first time in nearly 10 years, so it actually made for a decent day’s haul in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Bourdais made his North American open-wheel debut on the same streets in 2003, with a track record time that stood until Saturday, but ended a lapped 11th.
Outside of a third-win-win streak at Long Beach from 2004 to 2006, Bourdais’ season openers have been something to forget.
His finishes since that 2006 win at Long Beach: 13th and crashed at Las Vegas (2007), a DNS due to a warmup crash at St. Pete (2011), 21st and retired with electrical in a Lotus at St. Pete (2012), and 11th and 13th the last two years.
Bourdais’ Sunday was uneventful, clean and consistent, en route to his best finish yet in his hometown.
“It was a solid result for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team, but it was a bit up and down,” Bourdais said, via a team release. “Initially, it felt like we had something special going. I got TK (Tony Kanaan) and the car had good pace. Then I made a couple of mistakes and a restart didn’t go my way. After that, Sato hit us and we lost three positions.
“It was one of those races where you controlled the damage, but you don’t feel you have achieved what you were capable of. I am satisfied with the result and happy for the team, they did a good job. It’s a good start to the season.”
Bourdais’ teammate Stefano Coletti impressed on debut in the No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, making several separate charges into the top-10 before pitting with four laps to go, which took him from eighth down to 20th.
Coletti, who started 17th, went from the back of the field to close to the top-10 four times, passing a total of 15 cars during his IndyCar debut. At one point he went from 21st to 12th in 10 laps, and on one restart he gained four spots in a single lap.
“The KV Racing Technology team gave me a great car today, but unfortunately we didn’t have the result to prove it,” said the Monegasque rookie. “The car was fast and I overtook a lot of people. Every restart I overtook several cars, improving three or four positions. Obviously, I am disappointed with the final result. I had some issues and had to make up a lot of positions so I used a lot of fuel.”