In a sense, winning Sunday’s 2015 Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit No. 2 was like déjà vu for Sebastien Bourdais.
From 2004 through 2007, Bourdais was the hottest driver around – even more so than NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson at the time – earning four consecutive CART/Champ Car championships and winning an amazing 31 races in just 73 starts.
But the last few seasons have been rough for the native of Le Mans, France – which, by the way, once again plays host to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this coming weekend (June 13-14).
Now in his fourth full-time season, Sunday was Bourdais’ 66th career start in the IndyCar Series. Yet unlike his days in CART and Champ Car, it was only his second win in the open-wheel series, having previously won last season at Toronto.
After finishing 14th in Saturday’s first Dual, the KVSH Racing driver started ninth in Sunday’s second round of the two-day doubleheader, took the lead from Conor Daly on Lap 51 and led the final 18 laps to the checkered flag.
In so doing, Bourdais climbed to sixth in the IndyCar standings, 87 points behind Montoya, who has held the series lead since his season-opening win at St. Petersburg.
With Bourdais (36), Montoya (turns 40 in September), Helio Castroneves (turned 40 in May) and Tony Kanaan (40), it has been kind of a resurgence for the older guys in the IndyCar circuit.
“You’re right,” Bourdais said after Sunday’s race. “I’m 36 years old. I’m not a youngster anymore. I’m more in the T.K., Juan and Helio group than the young guns. Probably have quite a few more years behind me than in front of me.
“But yeah, I mean, you look at the championship standings right now, you see all the guys, the experienced guys, as quick as ever, running right up there, making very few mistakes. It’s a great feeling.
“I think the reason why we’re here is we love racing, we love these cars, we love the series, the tracks we race on. It’s just a lot of fun. I’ll keep on racing this kind of series for as long as I get paid to do so.”
Later, Bourdais reflected further on not only Montoya returning to IndyCar last season, but how it’s somewhat of a David vs. Goliath battle every week for the Frenchman.
“Obviously, Juan had the opportunity to get back in a championship-winning team (Team Penske),” Bourdais said. “We’re more of an underdog, especially on the ovals. We don’t quite have the resources to investigate as much as they do. They have four cars and they get it right more often than not.
“For us, that’s why it’s (winning Sunday) so sweet. When we get it right like we did last year (Toronto), we qualify on pole, run up front, win the race. Or today we passed them on the track, give them a real run for their money. They’re not happy about it. We like to create the upset. I like the challenge. I’ll keep on doing it as much as I can.”
Prior to the Belle Isle weekend, Bourdais’ best finish this season was fourth in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis last month.
Now, with the win, he has two top five and three other top 10 finishes in the first eight races of season.
Winning Sunday wasn’t easy, particularly in a mishap-filled afternoon that included a red flag with three laps to go, with IndyCar officials abruptly changing from a distance race to a timed race for those final three laps.
“I became pretty creative at the restart,” Bourdais said. “I wasn’t going to give it up.”
Then, he added with a laugh, “No matter what happens, they’re not going by. That was pretty straightforward. Go big or go home.
“You know, I couldn’t be any happier, really. The car was really strong as it needed to be. It feels pretty sweet to be up there.”