Bourdais says Iowa “trickier than ever”

KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais says the bumps and track repairs at Iowa Speedway have made the cars even more difficult to drive there in 2016.

Bourdais says Iowa “trickier than ever”
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
#68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Sébastien Bourdais
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
LMGT Pro podium: class winners #68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Sébastien Bourdais with Ford Motor Company executive chairman Bill Ford Jr.
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

After completing 171 laps of the 0.894-mile oval in testing yesterday, the four-time Champ Car champion says Iowa Speedway will be demanding on cars and drivers although tire degradation is not huge.

He told Motorsport.com: “Overall the test went OK, we made progress. But we struggled a bit to get the car in the zone where it’s comfortable and the track’s become trickier than ever.

“They did a pretty nice job in Turns 1 and 2, shaving some of the bumps, but it’s still popping up everywhere. And I think the Xfinity and Trucks ripped the track apart when they raced there a few weeks ago.

“So they’ve had to patch it up in Turns 3 and 4, and now there are bumps there and very uneven grip. When you hit these patches, if the front works, it upsets the rear and also the reverse. The car is doing all sorts of not-so-fun things.”

Asked if the bumps were uniform across the track, or whether there was a route around them, Bourdais replied: “Hmm, well you can move up the groove, but obviously at Iowa, you add a lot of extra distance to the lap when you do that so it’s a compromise. When you start losing the tires a bit, moving up is not a bad thing to do but it’s still quicker to be flat-out all the way around at the bottom.”

In terms of tire life, Bourdais is not expecting the sort of degradation seen at Texas Motor Speedway, despite Iowa's start time moving from 9pm to likely warmer conditions at 5pm. However, he says that if there was a late caution period in the race, there could still be a major shake-up in the order.

“I think you can sustain tire life pretty decently,” he said. “You’ll still be quicker on fresh tires right out of the pits but the dropoff isn’t dramatic, so long as you don’t ruin your tires in traffic.

“That’s the big unknown because on such a short oval, you’re always in traffic! Running on your own, you’d probably only lose half a second over a stint. The tires do fall off but they don’t disintegrate.

“But if it comes down to a last 20-lap dash or something, and two or three guys at the front stay out and everyone else pits for new tires, I don’t think there’s any chance that the guys who stay out are going to hold off guys on fresh rubber. They would be very difficult to resist.” 

Road America disappointment

Fresh off winning the Detroit Race 1, and then capturing class victory in the Ford GT in his hometown of Le Mans, Bourdais admitted that a poor weekend at Road America had brought him down to earth with a bump.

Persistent braking issues in qualifying reduced him to only 12th on the grid, and on the run down to Turn 5 on the opening lap, his right-rear bumper pod was struck by the nose of Charlie Kimball’s Ganassi-Chevrolet. That necessitated a long pit stop to change the whole rear wing assembly, and even then the car wasn’t fast.

“I mean, first of all, if you start back in the pack, those are the kind of things that can happen, you know,” said Bourdais. “But then after the wing was changed, the car was bad, and we didn’t quite know why until the end of the race. We realized the spare rear wing [setting] was not where it was supposed to be.

“It would not have changed the outcome of the race because once you go a lap down and there are no yellows, there’s not much you can do.

He explained: “Tire wear was pretty high at Road America, especially with the thin-gauge tire that Firestone came up with, so for sure we went on the high side of downforce to help tire life by making the car slide less.

“But the spare wing was trimmed out… It made for a very long race because there was less downforce, which made the car pretty loose.

“So an interesting weekend but not one to be remembered! It was just a mishap; we need to get our stuff together.”

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