Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais will not drive for Dale Coyne Racing in 2020.
“Very happy that Sebastien decided to drive for us after his Formula 1 tour in 2011, and again the last three years, and appreciate all he’s done for our team, but the ever-changing landscape in IndyCar has changed our plans for 2020,” Coyne told RACER.
Bourdais was unavailable for comment.
It’s believed Frenchman, who joined the team in 2017 with his title-winning race engineer Craig Hampson, was informed the final year of his contract to pilot the No. 18 Honda fielded by Coyne, Jimmy Vasser, and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan will not be honored.
A new need for funding is said to have led to Coyne’s decision to stand Bourdais down in favor of finding a paying driver to complete the entry’s operating budget.
It’s unclear whether Hampson, who joined the team specifically to be reunited with his Champ Car driver, will remain with the Illinois-based outfit.
The timing of Coyne’s late decision could be crippling for Bourdais, whose options appear to be severely limited with a new season rapidly approaching in March.
Although seats are open at A.J. Foyt Racing and Carlin Racing, both of the Chevy-powered programs are searching for funded drivers. Other potential landing places for Bourdais, including the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda car the team endeavors to run, also need significant funding.
One interesting scenario which came to light over the summer was a proposed contract swap between Arrow McLaren SP and Coyne where Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe would have traded places in 2020.
While the deal did not go through, the well-funded AMSP team, which lacks a proven veteran to groom its young pairing of Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew, could find value in Bourdais after learning of Coyne’s shocking decision. The chances, though, of AMSP preparing a third car for Bourdais, after declining to do so for Hinchcliffe, appear to be slim.
And Hinchcliffe — whose efforts to raise the backing to continue his IndyCar career after being parked by AMSP is said to be making progress — could be a leading candidate to replace Bourdais at Coyne if his sponsorship hunt proves to be successful.
With Hinchcliffe serving as the off-season’s first casualty, and the recent news of Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot being dropped for budgetary reasons, Bourdais has joined the ranks of full-time drivers who are shocked to find themselves rideless and fighting to remain in the NTT IndyCar Series.