IndyCar 2017 – Bourdais goes back-to-front

Sebastien Bourdais stunned in St Petersburg last Sunday to win the first race of the 2017 IndyCar season after starting from the back of the grid.

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The Frenchman had a nightmare qualifying, crashing out which relegated him to starting in last place. Not having the best debut for Dale Coyne Racing, the team he has returned to after KV Racing folded prior to the new season. However, the accident meant Bourdais had fresh tyres for the race and he started on the red ‘alternate’ firestones, to maximise his pace and move up as many positions as possible.

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“Bourdais was untouchable today. It’s 1-2 French. Sorry for the French Revolution, guys. I’m very happy for him. It’s been his hometown actually. He’s been here since he moved to America. With Dale Coyne and Honda, they’ve shown a lot of strength.”

Simon Pagenaud

Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal collided at the start of the race and brought out the first caution of the day, Carlos Munoz and Spencer Pigot also getting involved. At the restart, James Hinchcliffe made a bold move around the outside of polesitter Will Power at the first turn to take the lead of the race and establish a very good gap over the Penske. Power’s race went downhill from there though. A vibration from a flat-spotted front right tyre meant he had to pit early and he ran over the right front wheel gun as he left the box, earning a drive through penalty. He worked his way into the top ten later on but another issue massively slowed him later in the race caused him to be black flagged. He was classified 19th.

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“To come out on top with obviously a lot of friends and family on-site, the whole community supporting the effort, it was just a great feeling. I couldn’t really be any happier for Honda and Dale for giving me the opportunity to put the band back together”

Sebastien Bourdais

Prior to this, a second caution came out on lap 26 after a collision between Tony Kanaan and Mikail Aleshin left debris on the track. This messed up the races of those at the front who had not pitted, including Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato and Alex Rossi. They were all shuffled down the order thanks to the caution. This left Simon Pagenaud leading, ahead of Bourdais who had been in 10th prior to the caution. Eight laps after the restart Bourdais made his move into turn one, with Pagenaud trying to hold off his compatriot but unable to do so.  From then on, Bourdais’ pace put him in a league of his own. The four time CART champion only lost the lead in the pitstops, his last being on lap 82, a lap prior to Pagenaud’s final pitlane visit. Bourdais did not look back after that and took the chequered flag some ten seconds in front of the Penske. Last to first, in the place he lives, for Dayle Coyne Racing. It was a fairytale result for the team and Bourdais. Dixon pulled off a great recovery to take 3rd ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sato, despite a wheelgun issue at his last stop, took a strong 5th on his debut appearance for Andretti – although it could well have been a podium without that wheel gun issue.

2017 Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg results

1 – Sebastien Bourdais
2 – Simon Pagenaud
3 – Scott Dixon
4 – Takuma Sato
5 – Ryan Hunter-Reay
6 – Helio Castroneves
7 – Marco Andretti
8 – Josef Newgarden
9 – James Hinchcliffe
10 – Ed Jones
11 – Alexander Rossi
12 – Tony Kanaan
13 – JR Hildebrand
14 – Mikhail Aleshin
15 – Conor Daly
16 – Max Chilton
17 – Graham Rahal
18 – Charlie Kimball
19 – Will Power (DNF)
20 – Spencer Pigot (DNF)
21 – Carlos Munoz (DNF)