TORONTO – Sebastien Bourdais has had great success racing on the streets of Exhibition Place, which made the decision to attend the Honda Indy Toronto as a spectator this year more difficult. When you’ve tasted the champagne of victory at a racetrack, you don’t want to watch as others vie for that honor.
But at the behest of Craig Hampson, his friend and race engineer at Dale Coyne Racing, Bourdais is in Toronto this weekend and was a surprise guest at Thursday’s media luncheon to kick off weekend festivities.
“Mixed feelings, obviously. I’m not a good spectator, so it’s going to be a tough weekend for me,” admitted Bourdais, who has won the Toronto race twice (2005 and 2014-Race 1), been the podium three other times and is a four-time pole winner on the temporary street course.
“It’s a place where I was looking forward to come and race, so, yeah, bittersweet, but in the meantime, it could have been a lot worse and I could not be walking and I could not be there. There’s a lot of things that could be much worse. Like I said from the beginning, it was my mistake and I’m paying for it, so we’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it.”
The “mistake” Bourdais cited was the May 20 crash during an Indianapolis 500 qualifying attempt that left the four-time Indy car champion with fractures in his pelvis and right hip. Since the incident, the 38-year-old has been obsessed with returning to the cockpit of his Honda before the end of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Bourdais posted a video on social media last week showing him swimming and putting weight on his right leg a little more than six weeks after the crash.
He has been pleased with the progress made in rehabilitation.
“It’s been a bit of a long process but we knew that going in,” said Bourdais, who won the season opener in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg to collect career win No. 36 and move him alone into sixth place on the all-time Indy car list. “The good thing is obviously things are heading in the right direction. There’s no setbacks or bad surprises, so it’s just a game of patience.
“Thankfully, the bones are healing well and there’s no reason now to worry about it. It’s just going to follow its course and hopefully let us do our thing pretty soon.”
Pretty soon for Bourdais would be clearance from INDYCAR’s medical team to test in an Indy car in early August, with the intent of returning to competition for the final two events of the season – the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen from Sept. 1-3 and the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sept. 15-17.
“Unless that test goes not well and I’m really uncomfortable or not feeling up for it physically,” he said, “I should be able to make it back for the last two, which would be Watkins (Glen) and Sonoma.”
In the meantime, Bourdais will occupy his time this weekend helping the team’s rookie driver duo – Ed Jones and Esteban Gutierrez. It’s one of the reasons Hampson asked him to come, due to the difficulty of the 1.786-mile Toronto street course that was partially redesigned last year. Bourdais joined the drivers and team engineers on golf carts for the Thursday afternoon “track walk” to impart his advice.
“It’s one of these places where little pointers can really make a difference for the drivers,” Bourdais said. “They (Jones and Gutierrez) are both new to this track with this car and that last section is really tricky and Toronto, with all the different pavements through the corners, really make it that you need to know what’s in the track and what you’re looking for to set the car up. If I can help them do that, then it will be mission accomplished.”
On-track action at gets underway today, on Ontario Honda Dealers Fan Friday in support of Make-A-Wish. Fans attending today receive general admission entry to the track for a donation to Canada’s Make-A-Wish Foundation.
A pair of Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are set for 10:40 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. ET today. Saturday’s schedule calls for a third practice at 10 a.m. ahead of knockout qualifying at 2:15 p.m. All those sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, with a same-day qualifying telecast airing at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN.
For more information about Honda Racing, visit http://hpd.honda.com/.