Even IndyCar’s most pragmatic driver can find himself pleasantly surprised from time to time. Dragon Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, who is set to join the newly christened KVSH Racing team in 2014, was frank about his chances to stay in the IndyCar Series next season, seeing one or two slim opportunities to remain on the grid.
His Dragon team, with owner Jay Penske considering a greatly reduced schedule next season, was looking less like a solid option. There was some interest from Andretti Autosport, but that was a slow burn ” something with long odds. With the window closing on IndyCar and a full-time switch to sports car racing becoming Bourdais’ best solution, Tony Kanaan’s departure from KV gave the Frenchman one last hope to continue in open-wheel next season.
Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe was also in the running for Kanaan’s KV, and after the Canadian stepped away from the table last week, the stars aligned for Bourdais, who inked a two-year deal with Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and new team co-owner James Sullivan to lead KVSH.
A few pieces of the Bourdais-to-KVSH move still need to be assembled, but as the 31-time Indy car race winner told RACER, there’s plenty to be encouraged about heading into the off-season.
?Hopefully we can secure a good group of people around us; they already have a great crew, a great bunch of mechanics, and the big question will be about the engineers we will have,? he said. ?I think most of the guys might want to stay on next year, which would be the best scenario, and we’ll have to see where we end up for the engineering, but overall, I’m very encouraged with what they’ve done this year and what we can do together once this season is over.?
Kanaan’s big win at the Indy 500 was obvious high point for KV this season, and with Simona de Silvestro’s second place at Houston, the team has had moments to celebrate, but inconsistency has marked both entries throughout the championship.
Kanaan, currently 11th in the standings, and de Silvestro, who holds 15th entering the season finale at Fontana on Saturday, have seen their fortunes rise and fall, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a veteran like Bourdais using his speed and methodical working style to steady the program.
?I don’t dwell on whatever has or hasn’t happened during their season,” he said. “They started strong at St. Pete, have had good races at certain places, been good on the ovals a lot of the time, and I know I’ve learned a lot this year about working with the new [Firestone] tires and developing the setup to work the best with them. I’m pretty optimistic that with a good team around me, we can produce a lot of good results.
?My strength has been the street courses. On the road courses, it’s all about the car. If the car isn’t right, there isn’t a whole lot you can do during the race to really change things like you can with your driving on the streets. Ovals are the same way. You have to have the car right to perform, so I’m really looking forward to getting out with them, doing some testing, them getting to know me and having this deal done so early. It gives us a lot of time to get ourselves ready to go after a championship next year.?
Little has been said by the KV team regarding its second car or a driver for that entry next season. As Bourdais explains, having a teammate would be the optimal situation, but he won’t be limited by whatever does or doesn’t take place in that department.
?It’s always good to have a teammate to feed off of, to work on setups together, but I’ve driven for mostly one-car situations in IndyCar; I’ve had teammates, but there’s been a lot of changes in who was driving in the team next to me so I’ve become accustomed to working on things in our own direction,? he said. ?I don’t know about who will be my teammate next year, but I’m not worried about that at the moment. I know from experience that we can develop the car in the right direction, and if I have a good teammate, it will only make that process easier. Of course I want a teammate to help with this, but I’ll focus on my own thing until we know more. We’ll see how it works out.?
Bourdais is put his road racing prowess on full display for KVSH, and with his first complete season of racing on ovals having been added to his arsenal, expects to learn more from a team that has been most effective when turning left.
?My experience on ovals is very limited; I’ve run more of them this year than ever before,? he added. ?I think I’ve shown I’m learning quickly and I’m becoming very comfortable on them. Tony [Kanaan] is one of the best, if not the best on ovals, so I know the team has a lot of experience there for me to benefit from. And Jimmy [Vasser] also has a lot of experience there, so I know it will all help me and help us next year. If we’re going to win a championship, you have to be good everywhere, and I think we can be strong on ovals, too.?
Along with his move to KVSH in 2014, Bourdais will also maintain ties with Penske’s Dragon Racing as his current team embarks on a new venture.
?Obviously, Jay released that they will race in Formula E, so I will race for him in that series next year, except for any races where there are IndyCar conflicts; so I will stay connected with Dragon and I think it’s a really cool chance to support something new the FIA is trying with electric cars,? Bourdais revealed. ?We’ll keep a relationship there, and this is thanks to both teams having flexibility for me to do the IndyCar championship and also Formula E.?