MANSFIELD, OH — Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Chris Jones photo – Momentum can be a funny thing and that’s no more evident than in the Verizon IndyCar Series, where KVSH Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais has tallied two podium finishes in the past three races (at Toronto Race #1 and Mid-Ohio) and continues to exhibit progress towards his return to prominence with three races remaining in the season.
Bourdais, 35, held back James Hinchcliffe in the late stages during Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio and clinched his career-best finish at the challenging road course (second) after winning the pole for the 90-lap event during Saturday’s time trials.
Both accomplishments speak to a rejuvenated Bourdais, a side of the Frenchman that hasn’t been seen since his championship seasons (2004-2007).
“Confidence obviously and serenity obviously is very important when you’re in the car and you’re not desperate to try to get a result,” Bourdais explained. “You’re probably more clear mind and making steady and right choices. Right now the spirits are high and everybody is pumped up and we’re figuring more and more things out of the car, what works, what doesn’t. Hopefully it keeps going our way like that.”
Alongside the podium and pole, Bourdais triumphed in Race One at the Streets of Toronto — his first win in the IndyCar Series since 2007 at Mexico City when he drove Newman Haas Lanigan Racing’s No. 1 McDonald’s machine.
“I’ve got a big smile across my face and I can’t seem to get rid of it,” Bourdais told ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz. “It’s just really cool. The whole race (at Toronto) I was stressed out; it felt too easy. It felt like it was way too much under control and it felt like it was going to go wrong at some point.”
“All of us at Newman/Haas probably realized how special that time was when it was behind us, and it’s always like that,” Bourdais said. “Now when you reflect on everything that happened [winning at Toronto], it was very extraordinary to be able to do it with the density of the field, and the way we have done it today is very special — and shows that I’ve still got it and I’m here to stay.”
Prior to the performance at Mid-Ohio it was easy to see that Bourdais was optimistic about the win returning him to his earlier dominance – something that continues to become more and more realistic.
“Hopefully we can get on a roll,” Bourdais commented. “There is not going to be any domination like we had from ’04 to ’07 just because there are too many good drivers, too many strong cars, the way the racing is these days. You’re either P1 or P10, so you can’t have the consistency, but we can still be contenders to win a championship in a series.”
Bourdais admits that the team’s focus has been on rebuilding their database, which was lost after IndyCar Series officials changed the rules packages and the entire car. The Frenchman is humbly surprised with the recent results, but he also realizes his team is moving in the right direction.
“I think, quite honestly, we’ve been running up front a lot,” Bourdais expressed. “Really being top five contenders week in, week out since the beginning of the season, better or worse, but around there. I’m still very happy because we are clearly making progress . We’re building the group. We’re building a database.
“We restarted pretty much from, you know, scratch after the not-so-great year we had last year. We’re just doing our own thing, and it’s working out. It seems like it’s paying dividends that we’re finally learning more and more about the car. We’re trying to play catch-up, but it seems to be working pretty good so far.”
Despite the success Bourdais isn’t prepared to define his KVSH Racing squad a top-tier competitor – like Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing – though he thinks his organization is making leaps towards that recognition.
“We cannot call ourselves Penskes, Ganassis or even Andrettis,” Bourdais stated. “But we’re definitely on the right path. They want to expand and grow the program. I think they have the right structure with the financial side of things being completely disconnected from the operational side of things. We’re just going to keep on doing our thing and hope that we can carry whatever we learned this year to next year and make it even better.”
With few races remaining on the schedule Bourdais has quietly moved up into eighth in the points standings – 148 markers behind leader Will Power – and is hoping a couple more podium finishes will ignite his momentum towards a fifth championship next season.
“We still have a couple races to go until the end of the season,” a laid back Bourdais said. “Hopefully we can score a couple more of these (podiums). That would be fine.”