Sebastien Bourdais and Jay Penske

Sebastien Bourdais won on the streets of Toronto in 2004 during a Champ Car season that started a streak of four consecutive series titles and 28 of his 31 Indy car victories. Podium finishes in the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader July 13-14 – his first in 34 IZOD IndyCar Series races -- are a start to reclaiming contender status.

"I think we've got a really workable base to begin with now," Bourdais said following his second- and third-place finishes in the No. 7 Dragon Racing car. “We've got some work to do and we'll keep at it. To go from where we were to be challenging for the podium -- that's pretty sweet."

Through 10 races that netted bests of 11th on a road/street circuit and 14th on an oval, the team released race engineer Neil Fife, who had worked with Bourdais since 2011 at Dale Coyne Racing, and added Tom Brown (who most recently had worked at HVM Racing).

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"At the end of the day it's a completely different challenge when you have to start from scratch," said Bourdais, 34, whose last victory was at Mexico City in 2007. "It's a challenge to bring people onboard and try to get the right chemistry.

Sebastien Bourdais and Tom Brown“Tom came with kind of an idea and we just went more and more toward that direction. It just clicked for the first qualifying. ‘Oh, OK, now we got grip.  Now I can push.’ It was a pretty big eye-opener.  Then we just kept working at it all weekend. Once you get closer, baby steps.”

Bourdais, who recorded five top-10 finishes in the final six races in 2011, joined Jay Penske-led Dragon Racing for 2012 as a teammate to Katherine Legge. With the new chassis-engine platform, the team lagged behind the field through four races until it switched from Lotus to Chevrolet power for the Indianapolis 500.

Penske consolidated the program for the second half of the season, with Legge competing on the ovals and Bourdais in six street/road course events. Development of the package was understandably minimal during the race weekends.

Still, Bourdais had strong qualifying efforts (five top 10s, including a high of third at Sonoma) and posted a season-best fourth-place finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course Aug. 2-4 for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Five of the final six races are on road/street circuits.

"I really thought at the end of last year that we were going to have an awesome (2013) season,” Bourdais said. “We just didn't adapt very quickly to the new tires. Finally, I think we understood something and it's the turnaround for our season."