Rolex win accomplished, Bourdais ready for INDYCAR season's green flag


Sebastien Bourdais spent a portion of Monday making room for yet another trophy, one of the perks of winning the GT Le Mans class Sunday at the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Sebastien BourdaisAnother portion of his day was spent looking forward to the Verizon IndyCar Series season, which begins March 12 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – in his adopted hometown.

“It’s great preparation for the INDYCAR season,” Bourdais said of the annual sports car endurance race around Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course. “I got more than seven hours of driving in the rain. I don’t think your senses can be more practiced than that in trying to gauge what’s available and how you manage the tires.”  

He wasn’t the only one putting a forward spin on the Rolex 24 to the INDYCAR opener. Many of the eight Verizon IndyCar Series regulars who participated in the Rolex 24 indicated after the annual 24-hour race that it had them looking forward to the start of their day jobs.

One driver was even motivated by an airport delay after the race.

“The Daytona 24 just became our Florida 48,” James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports said in a video posted to Twitter while waiting to board a delayed flight in the Orlando airport. “It’s been a bit of a weekend for us. … Now we switch gears and start looking forward to St. Pete. It’s time for the INDYCAR season to get going. We cannot wait. Almost as badly as we cannot wait to get home.”

Watch Hinchcliffe's airport video here:

The Daytona 24 just became the Florida 48 for @Hinchtown...

Not only does the Rolex 24 serve as mental preparation for the Verizon IndyCar Series season, it also helps drivers stay in shape and hone their skills.

“That’s not the reason why I do it,” said Bourdais, who will drive for Dale Coyne Racing this season at the 17 Verizon IndyCar Series races. “I do it because I enjoy it. … It’s tough to put a value on it, but for me it helps. The longer you stay inactive, the harder it is to get back up.”

It also helps drivers stay sharp with race craft and specific driving skills. While the two disciplines are markedly different, driving a sports car has some things in common with driving an Indy car. Bourdais’ two overnight stints in the No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT that he shared with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand translated to the wet conditions he’ll inevitably face at some point during the 11 road and street races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

“It sure helps to get more seat time and keep your feelings sharp,” Bourdais said. “At the end of the day, it’s a race of touch and feel and sight. If you don’t exercise those skills, they become a bit less sharp.”

Earlier in the week, Bourdais laid down a 52.4-second lap on the short course at Sebring International Raceway road course in the No. 19 DCR Honda/Dallara. The impressive time occurred after just a handful of laps, a fact he attributed to offseason training and testing, including a lengthy practice session for the Rolex 24 earlier in the month.

The testing and competition in any type of car is essential, but race competition -- especially long stints on a wet course -- is invaluable.

“It’s like a book,” Bourdais said. “Every time you write a new page, you tell the experience. This one was no different. We had really tough conditions. You have to be on top of your game. There’s no room for error when it’s at night in the middle of traffic and varying levels of pace and very different lines and levels of driving. You have to be super, super precise with yourself and with the ones around you.”

For now, his plan for the Rolex 24 trophy -- once it’s engraved, of course -- is to be placed near every other trophy he has won since 2012, when he relocated from his hometown of Le Mans, France, to St. Petersburg, Florida. He’ll place the trophy on shelves in close proximity to prizes received for his four Verizon IndyCar Series wins in the previous three years -- Toronto, Detroit twice and Milwaukee.

Anything pre-2012 will have to wait to shine.

“All of the trophies I earned before 2012 are in Le Mans in a garage,” Bourdais said. “I’ve never had time to put any kind of shelving together. We’ll put this one downstairs with the others. There really aren’t that many, so there’s still room.”

Watch Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Spencer Pigot from Ed Carpenter Racing recap their Rolex 24 experiences below:

Watch as @GrahamRahal recaps his experience during the #Rolex24 and talks about his excitement for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series to start.

After the #Rolex24 @SpencerPigot talks about being in a car that's on fire for the first time in his career as a tough way to end the race.

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