Sebastien Bourdais climbed from the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy after turning 35 laps on Wednesday. The Frenchman was first at the time, with a quick lap of 1m48.8361s, before handing over to Canadian rookie Dalton Kellett. By all accounts, the steep rise in speed from the Foyt team ranked among the biggest surprises from the Open Test.
“We only had two hours to do that, and only 20 minutes, really, when the track began to stabilize before I stopped so Dalton could get some time in the car,” Bourdais told RACER. “I think the test went the same way as it did at the simulator last week with good engineers and a good group. It’s all pretty positive.”
Working with Foyt engineers Mike Colliver and Mile Pawlowski, Bourdais spent most of his session staying in a relatively narrow range of chassis setup options. Looking back at the hard times his new teammate Tony Kanaan endured over the last two years under a different engineering structure, Bourdais can’t wait for the Brazilian to sample Foyt’s overhauled performance group.
“I felt bad for Tony because it’s a totally different setup here, and now, with people coming from Andretti and Schmidt bringing their ideas, the car is very improved,” he said. “The mood was obviously very good after the couple of runs we did today. Right away, it seemed like we were very competitive, and we weren’t really trying to do anything big. We made some third-spring changes that didn’t work, and two damper changes that didn’t work, but it was good to know about those concepts and it was interesting to see we were quick despite having a lot of room to improve.”
It’s only one test day, which makes it impossible to predict how the team will fare with Bourdais in the No. 14 and Charlie Kimball in the sister No. 4 Chevy at the season opener in St. Petersburg. But if the direction taken at COTA carries over to the early rounds, there’s every reason to believe the Foyt team will move forward on the grid.
“A.J. was quite happy, and so was Larry Foyt and the rest of the guys,” Bourdais said. “The morale was really good, and now they have something real to cheer themselves up. It’s turning for the better, and they’ve been through some tough times. We just want to keep making things better and I think the team has good ingredients to do it.”