Sebastien Bourdais is a multi-talented driver and when Peter Baron invited him to co-drive with Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio in the Sahlen’s Six hours of the Glen this weekend, he quickly accepted the offer. The talented sports-car racers will be driving the Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley in the second longest race of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season.
The Frenchman was in Europe when Baron called, and the accomplished driver quickly made plans to be in Watkins Glen by the end of the week, stopping off first at his St. Petersburg home to clean up the damage incurred by Tropical Storm Debby. Although his home survived the storm, the water came within 2 feet of the front door and lots of debris was left behind. And the streets were still flooded when the Bourdais family arrived home. Once Bourdais saw that his home was not damaged, he made tracks for Watkins Glen.
I am enjoying the experience, even though I am not very familiar with the car.
“I have never raced at Watkins Glen, and I was surprised when Peter (Baron) called me,” Bourdais said after completing his first practice session. “It is cool, and it gives me the opportunity to learn the track in case I ever need it. I am enjoying the experience, even though I am not very familiar with the car. Discovering a race track with a car you don’t know very well is interesting.”
Bourdais didn’t want to overdo it with his initial laps but within a short period of time, he was among the frontrunners. He admitted his biggest challenge was finding a smooth way to get through the chicane portion of the 3.4-mile road course. “You have to use all the curbs, and it is all about timing and where you position the car,” he commented. “The car is a bit wobbly, too, and you just have to become accustomed to it. But I am having fun.”
Bourdais knew Dalziel but not well. “I knew Ryan (Dalziel) when he was running Formula Atlantics, and I was racing in Champ Car,” Bourdais said. “He’s a good guy, and it is good to work with him. Peter (Baron) and Ryan have a good relationship with Enzo (Potolicchio), and Enzo really wants to win the championship. The team is currently in second place in points in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype class and also second in the North American Endurance Championship standings.
“I like these smaller team experiences,” Bourdais said. “It is like family. They make you feel very comfortable, and you fit right in.”
Dalziel said, “We are looking at both championships, but it is going to be tough to do. Adding Sebastien (Bourdais) is huge, and his name comes with a huge amount of credibility. He is a huge asset for us, and the more credibility he brings to our organization, the better we look.”
Said Baron, “We were surprised when Sebastien accepted, as you don’t know what these guys want to do during the summer. It is nice to have him with us.” The car owner also would like to have Bourdais in their camp for the Rolex 24 at Daytona next January, and the two have already talked about it.
The Frenchman’s last race was the 24 Hours of Le Mans and with his family; they stayed over after the race to visit with family and friends.
Originally, Bourdais was to have re-joined his IZOD IndyCar Series team for the recent race at the Iowa Speedway, but with his Dragon Racing team re-grouping, it has dropped back to a one-car team. Bourdais will be running on the road and street courses and Katherine Legge will do the ovals. The IndyCar team started out the season with Lotus power but after experiencing a succession of problems, the team switched over to Chevrolet. Given the expense and transition time involved, the team was forced to make changes to its organization.
“We know we are going to have a shot at being very competitive for the rest of the season, so Katherine (Legge) is going to do the ovals and I am going to do street and road courses,” he said. “And we hope to get back to two cars by the end of the season.”
Bourdais and his team struggled at Indianapolis due to lack of preparation time with the new power but they persevered. “On speed we were okay, but with race trim, we struggled with massive under steer in traffic, and I was a spectator all day, which wasn’t fun. But in Detroit the car was running pretty good, and we got up to P7 until we encountered mechanicals (problems). It is going to take a weekend when things get better, going from point A to point B.”
The well-spoken driver knows how to deal with frustration, as he not only has had to overcome it on the IndyCar side; he had somewhat of a similar experience with his recent foray at Le Mans. “We knew we weren’t going to win and we knew we had only a little chance of finishing,” he said. “The engine had not finished a 24-hour race nor had we done a simulation, we knew it was going to be a challenge. We got behind early and finally the engine broke.”
For Sunday’s six-hour endurance race, Bourdais is focused on helping the Starworks team in its quest for the two championships, and the team knows he has the know-how to give them a solid result. “We will see how we can do, and it will take a perfect weekend. It will all be about not making any mistakes,” he noted.