Neither Takuma Sato nor Sebastien Bourdais had much to be happy about after qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200; Sato and Bourdais lined up 20th and 16th for the 12th round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Yet with both drivers – and their respective strategists Larry Foyt (Sato’s No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda) and Jimmy Vasser (Bourdais’ No. 11 Team Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet) – calling their shots right during the race in terms of when to pit, they found themselves fourth and fifth with just five laps to go in the 90-lap race.
But what would have been great results for both of them went awry at Turn 4 on Lap 87, when Bourdais slid into the back of Sato, punting him off course and then following suit himself to get beached at “China Beach.”
Bourdais’ day was done but his car was left there, to only produce a local yellow.
Sato made it out of the contact in ninth place, a few spots lower than he figured he’d be, but still with his fifth finish of 11th or better in the last six races.
Bourdais was apologetic afterwards, taking the blame for the contact.
“Unfortunately, we got caught up behind with Takuma. He did a really good job at the restart, we bumped and was very aggressive. And then we got stuck behind him for the whole race,” Bourdais told NBC Sports post-race.
“I don’t know if I got growingly impatient or frustrated or lost my mind a little bit, but clearly I got into the back of him because I was trying to make something happen because I just felt like it was getting stupid to stay behind.
“I guess I just made a mistake, one way or another, we made contact and I was behind and so it was my bad. … We could have used the points and that finish. This is not the way you want to end a weekend.”
Sato explained the contact from his vantage point: “Heckuva day. Incredible job from the team. Larry called the perfect strategy even though it was a little bit optimistic when we came to pit. Later on we caught a good yellow and gained track position. Then we were fighting the whole field! It was like qualifying every lap. My ABC guys gave me a super pitstop to get me out on the last stop — then we were fighting for fourth.
“It’s a real shame what happened at the end (getting hit by Bourdais). We were able to salvage a ninth so still a good result for the second straight race. Looking forward to the last part of the season.”
Bourdais admitted as well he was happy it stayed as a local yellow, even though his mistake prevented anyone else from making a passing maneuver at one of the two best passing spots on the circuit.
“I wish they would do that more often, but in the meantime, if they were going to go retrieve the car, it wasn’t going to finish under green,” he said.
“Obviously, if you leave the car there and get me out of the seat, you wave double yellow flags and there’s nothing wrong with that. But obviously the only place where you can pass is neutralized. I think it was good fans got a green finish.”
The two also discussed the incident on Twitter after it happened, basically taking the above quotes and turning them into 140-character byte-sized messages.
Perhaps ironically the two of them are also next to each other in the points standings. Bourdais (283 points) and Sato (257) sit 14th and 15th in the championship, although both drivers have had better years than those positions would indicate.