The amount of talent headed towards the open market continues to grow with the addition of four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais to a free agent class that already includes 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and three-time race winner James Hinchcliffe.
The Frenchman is in his second year of leading Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing team, and has a pair of podium finishes last month at Toronto (LEFT) that point to an improving season, but says he’s been looking for an alternative ride if the Dragon relationship does not go forward.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve to get something going on for next year,” he told RACER. “Jay has an option on me, and he would like to continue, but it’s really not in his hands. Whatever holds true next year with sponsorship and all that and I think he’s exhausted a certain number of avenues there I’m looking for other options. The reality is that I could be out of IndyCar in a few months. If I can delay the exit, that is what I want to do. It will be Adieu’ for me otherwise.”
Penske, as the NBCSN broadcasters noted on Sunday, had numerous high-powered guests in attendance at Sonoma in an effort to secure sponsorship for 2014 and beyond. Bourdais was one of many drivers to suffer contact during the race, but recovered to finish 10th, giving Penske and his group of CEOs a good look at what the team has to offer.
Bourdais has an average finishing position of 6.75 in the four races since engineer Tom Brown (pictured with Seb ABOVE RIGHT) was assigned to his car, and this may well improve this weekend on the streets of Baltimore, but Bourdais is hoping the poor string of race results from St. Petersburg through Pocono won’t impact his market value.
“It has been a tough thing, and it goes back to last year, realistically,” he said. “I went into last season expecting to do the full season and really wanted to do all the ovals, but Katherine [Legge] ended up sharing the car with me after Indy and did them instead of me. So that hurt me on learning the ovals, which is really what this year has been about for us. I really feel like by the end of oval race weekends, I was starting to figure them out, especially at tracks where I had never been before.
“So this has been more of a learning year in that way than I wanted, but I’m very confident that I’ve gotten up to speed and can return to the ovals and be right there pushing for good results. I’ve also liked learning the setup side of ovals since this is my first full season in the IndyCar Series, so it would suck not to be able to return! Dragon isn’t as big as a lot of teams, so we’ve had a lot of work to do figuring out the new tires and setup directions, but things have been improving.”
Dragon offers one of the few paying drives in IndyCar, so for Bourdais, a third term is one of the best possible scenarios. However, his lack of certainty on that front has led Bourdais to speak with and receive interest from other teams, and he says he’ll continue to explore whatever options exist in order to remain in open-wheel racing.
“There are some good drivers out there who are also looking for jobs, and there aren’t many places for a professional driver to be paid to do his job, so it’s tough right now,” he explained. “I’ve had some good conversations, but there are no guarantees for anyone right now. I want to stay in IndyCar, I know that, but that decision is not in my hands. I definitely want to keep talking with people until we can make something happen.
“But I think whatever happens with Hinchcliffe is what will make things move for the rest of us. Wherever he goes, that will say what options really exist, but the way I see it, he holds the key. I have a great thing with the 8 Star [Grand-Am] team and if IndyCar is over for me, I am prepared to go to sports cars 100 percent, but I know I can win more championships in IndyCar, so I will keep trying to make that work out.”