68 SEPTEMBER 2017
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
at home in Florida. Courtesy of a current
IndyCar Series team owner, the Bourdais
family, including his parents, made the
trip in comfort with a private jet. In the
weeks that followed, more pain and
pushing became the routine.
But during the quiet, introspective
moments, Bourdais explored the reasoning
and circumstances that led to his crash.
“It’s the first time I’ve really gotten hurt,
and there’s a lot to learn on many fronts,”
he says. “Trying to obliterate the field on a
day that was meaningless. It was only going
to get me into the Fast Nine for Sunday,
and I probably should have known better.”
On pace to set the fastest qualifying
average of the day – both laps before the
crash were 231mph-plus – and lock in a shot
at the pole in his No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing
Honda, Bourdais gave in to temptation as
he and race engineer Craig Hampson
aimed for the chimera of perfection.
“I didn’t expect that to happen, but I’ve
never been in a position where the car
was that good and it only got better the
more we trimmed out,” he says of the
low-downforce setup that soon snarled
and snapped. “You can’t expect to keep
trimming and have the car really free and
be on the edge without knowing it. It felt
so good…until it no longer did. It was
stupid of me to go that far with the car.”
As the rear tires began to slide
entering Turn 2, Bourdais’ instincts took
over. Feeding opposite lock to the front
tires corrected the slide. It also left him
pointing directly at the wall. The
smashing, flipping and brief fire came to
an end more than a quarter-mile after
the point of impact. Among the most
honest drivers in any series, Bourdais
reconciled the event almost immediately.
“After it happened, I knew I was lucky,”
he continues. “Contrary to other drivers, I
know the risks and do not minimize them.
It’s not fair for the family sometimes, but
I’m aware of what I do and what can
happen. You can’t make the risks
disappear. That’s part of the sport.”
Perhaps Bourdais’ recovery would
have taken longer if he’d let the violence
of the crash take root while being tended
to by the Holmatro Safety Team, or
afterward, while lying in his hospital bed.
Approaching 40, there’s little reason for
his body to have mended itself at such a
rapid rate – not at an age where healing
begins to decelerate. And yet it has.
“The intensity of the injury is always hard
to grasp, and I didn’t want to be too present
– too lazy,” he concedes. Miracles weren’t
in play; it was pure mind over matter.
Knowing how some drivers are wary of
visiting injured competitors, Bourdais sent
a thoughtful email to the IndyCar regulars
welcoming them to visit, or steer clear
until he was healed. It could have been a
defense mechanism – to safeguard against
the possibility of a low turnout. It wasn’t
needed; stacked six deep on occasion,
Bourdais’ receiving line was always full.
“Obviously, there are some guys you
know will be there, but I was more
surprised with Scott Dixon,” he admits.
“He was the first one there, with
Alexander Rossi, and he came back a
(MAIN) Any trepidation he might
have had disappeared once
Sebastien Bourdais began lapping
at Mid-Ohio. (ABOVE) The
Frenchman gets focused and
ready to head out. (ABOVE
LEFT) With owner Dale Coyne.