2014 IndyCar (Media Day): IndyCar - Sebastien Bourdais
An interview with:
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, NO.11 MISTIC KVSH RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed in move to KVSH Racing, pre-season testing, expectations for the season and other topics.
THE MODERATOR: We're ready with Sebastien Bourdais.
Your thoughts about testing at Sebring and the testing overall so far this off-season?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: First off, good morning, everybody. It's really been a great winter for me, obviously signing with KV, joining Jimmy and the whole crew. It's been quite an experience. Really feeling very fortunate because I got a great group of guys around me. They've been working really hard all winter. It's really paying off.
I think it's needless to say that work is rewarded. As far as we're concerned, it's been the hardest winter in terms of work that I've seen my team go through in a long time. It makes you feel great because you know the level of preparation is quite high. We've been able to test four times. Another one at Barber before the season starts.
Couldn't be happier. We've made a lot of progress on all fronts. It's probably not going to be perfect right off the bat, but it's a two-year deal and I'm excited to see the progress we made. Hopefully we can hit the ground running and just keep on getting better.
THE MODERATOR: St. Petersburg being the town you reside in now, your thoughts about racing there.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, St. Pete has been home for me since 2003 kind of on and off. It was my very first race in open-wheel in the U.S., started out on the right foot. Great memories from that. It's been really a great place for me to spend time, obviously bring the family over.
When I arrived in the U.S., I was a kid kind of. I evolved from being married, having a child, then another one. We're raising the family in St. Pete in a great neighborhood. Starting the season at home is a great feeling. Hopefully we can get things going right and have a great weekend in St. Pete, because it's not been so great so far since I returned to IndyCar.
Hopefully we can have a better showing this year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You have been top three every time you've tested. That's caught people's attention. Chip Ganassi said, Who is his engineer? Do you feel people are noticing and people are remembering that you are an elite driver who can win races and challenge for championships?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's funny, we were having that same conversation last night. Somebody was like, Why did you not get picked up by a big team? The common thread in racing is short-term memory.
I don't look at what people say, write or think of me. I try to be myself, do the best I can, and hopefully eventually it pays off and works out.
For sure this year I do feel like there is a lot of potential, unexplored potential at KV. Last year was an eye-opener when Tony won the 500. I think it's pretty much to the credit at KV. They worked very hard. They have a great group of guys who really love racing, which is not so easy to find. I could not put a strong enough point on saying that this group can win, that's for sure.
I don't know how long it's going to take before we do it, but only because competition is so difficult in IndyCar these days. You look at the number of cars you need to beat to just get there, it's really hard. But at the end of the day everybody has the same equipment pretty much. It's just a matter of how you use it, how much work you put into it to get it right.
Every time we've unloaded the car, it's been a bit of a struggle at times, but we just kept digging in, kept digging in. As long as we know and understand what actually makes the car faster, I think we've done just that during all these tests this winter, we end up finishing the test in good shape. That's making me feel very hopeful.
It's not a moving target. You might struggle a little bit to find the answers and solutions, but we do find them eventually. They know what they're shooting for and why they work so hard. It's great. I haven't felt that way in a long time. I feel like there's something pretty awesome to do and am really pumped about it.
Q. When the season was winding down, you weren't sure what you were going to do, you knew Dragon was going away, did you think you would land on your feet and it was as good as it's turned out?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. I was getting pretty not scared, but I didn't really have any idea how that was going to turn out. Maybe it was going to be sports car racing for good or something else. I didn't know which way it was going to go.
You don't control the opportunities that present themselves to you. I think it's about as good as it could ever get. Obviously the only other thing could have been the 10. I don't think I really ever was on that list, and that's fine. Just going to do the best we can with our group and try and beat these guys and show them.
Q. In the last week your teammate from last year will be your teammate this year. Is it helpful you worked with him last year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: He's a good kid. It's helpful in the way it helps the team set all the base work, have a two-car team, know all the people, keep everybody onboard. Otherwise you have to start to lay people off, do all sorts of things that disturb an organization and are painful to do because you don't want to see anybody go when everybody has been working so hard through the winter. That was a relief for everyone.
The guys never really doubted it was going to happen, but the longer you wait, the more questions come up. As far as I'm concerned, you know, I have a really good relationship with Seb. But I've never been one to rely on my teammate.
The way the weekends go, it's really hard to feed off each other. You can look at a couple data and see, He's done this in that corner. It happens. But it's not the big picture. You need to find the answers you're looking for within your group and make the best of your car.
I don't think it's going to play a big factor.
Q. You don't strike me as the kind of guy who believes in karma or fate. Opening the year with the win in the Rolex, do you allow to think, This is going to be a really good year for me?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I'm not superstitious. I don't believe in momentum or anything like that. But starting the season on the right foot never hurts.
It's helpful. When I was in Champ Car, everything was going our way. Didn't matter. Everything was working out. Maybe because we were in the best team, working more than the others, generating our own good luck.
For sure for the longest time in the last few years it felt like, heck, you know, when is it going to work out. Yeah, finally we kind of clicked at the end of the season, got a few podiums, things looked like they were turning around. I was kind of looking forward to building on that. It all went away. Well, where do we go now?
Now this new program with KV has come together. I'm definitely very much looking forward to these next two seasons and very excited about the prospects.
Q. You touched on how much of a struggle it was coming back to IndyCar racing. Do you ever question whether you can get back to the top of the mountain?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, you always question that. Obviously you're only as good as your car is. That's always been true for me. I'm no super hero. I can be very fast in a good car with a good team around me. On my own, I'm no better than anybody else.
Yeah, I guess that first half season when I decided to give it a shot and do the road courses, we had some strong showings, but were never race-winning material. Maybe once in Toronto. Apart from that, we were not quite strong enough. It felt like it was going to be a very steep mountain to climb.
You don't question whether you can do it or not, you just know you can't do it alone. You never know whether you're going to get the opportunity to get back in the winning seat. That's the thing.
Like I said before, when I left Newman/Haas to go after that dream of mine in F1, there was no guarantee if I ever tried to come back getting a top seat. I knew that. It happened before with Zanardi and Cristiano. I knew once I left, I had taken a one-way ticket. It's not that I couldn't buy a return, but nothing was guaranteed.
Yeah, for the longest time it just felt like it was not meant to be. Hopefully I'm going to prove myself wrong.
Q. Could you talk about how things developed with Dragon Racing last year when you sort of realized there wasn't going to be a full-season ride? When did the interest from KV occur?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, it was kind of difficult really because, like I said, it felt like the IndyCar with Dragon was still very much steering in the right direction. But then all the sponsor money was on this two-year deal, which was coming to an end.
To Jay's credit, he had put a great program together. Unfortunately circumstances with the Lotus at first, it was just one step back after another. Not really anything that Jay could control.
Then when you start obviously exhausting all the options, very soon, in the middle of the season, I got to understand through talking to Jay that there was going to be a 30% chance it was going to happen again. As time was going on, there were a couple of sponsor issues and stuff, it was pretty clear it was maybe going to be an Indy-only deal. Then we started talking with Jay. He got all my attention. I got all his attention when we started talking about it. It was really an open discussion.
At the end of the day, he had an option he could have executed. He didn't. He really understood what was a goal of mine, which was to, you know, stay in IndyCar and try and be a champion again. He knew he could just not offer that to me.
We decided to keep the relationship, obviously. I'll probably end up driving his Formula E once the IndyCar season is over. We'll see how that works out. He let me go to chase my main target. It kind of all happened at the same time.
When Tony announced he was moving to Ganassi, the next choice for KV really was James. James was going back and forth between Andretti and KV. At some point KV really needed some commitments from a driver to finalize the sponsor deal. When James didn't commit to it, it was me. That was that.
It was obviously very straightforward. All along I knew exactly what the deal was. I was kind of third in line. That's the way it was. When they didn't take it, I was like, Yeah, I'll take it. We went for that.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastien Bourdais, thank you very much.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Thank you.