Sebastien Bourdais

AVONDALE, La. – Sebastien Bourdais doesn’t want to be late to the party.

The four-time Champ Car champion is referencing the importance of his first test days of the year in the No. 11 KVSH Racing car in preparation for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He’ll join other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers at NOLA Motorsports Park near New Orleans on Feb. 10-11 – days leading into carnival week culminating in Mardi Gras.

“I’m eager to get back to it and hopefully we’ll hit the ground running and figure it out quickly,” said Bourdais, who enters his second season with the team. “We have to understand what needs to happen and how you need to run the car to be competitive because it will dictate a lot of the first phase of the season, and then it’s so hard to test during the season that it’s putting your program at risk if you don’t figure it out quick.”

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersbug on March 27-29 marks the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda. Bourdais started and finished 13th at St. Petersburg last year. Through the 18 races, he recorded a victory (career 32nd) at Toronto and added four other top-five finishes.

“The continuity of the team is a key point to building from last year,” he said. “We had some solid showings and good pace on the road and street courses but we struggled on the ovals. Hopefully, we can grow from that, understand all the data and it translates into results.”

GP2 Series veteran Stefano Coletti, who drove a Verizon IndyCar Series car for the first time in mid-December during a test with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Sebring International Raceway, will audition for the second KV Racing Technology seat.

Also scheduled for the first Verizon IndyCar Series multi-team test on the 2.67-mile, 13-turn road course are Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz); CFH Racing (Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi); Team Penske (Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud); Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe); and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal).

Andretti Autosport, CFH Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing tested earlier this week at Sebring International Raceway.

“We came (to Sebring) with a fixed plan of certain things we wanted to test and were able to achieve that through the day,” said Eddie Jones, race engineer for the No. 15 car driven by Rahal. “It was a very productive day from a data-gathering standpoint. We weren’t looking for the ultimate lap time at this racetrack. Now our focus changes to NOLA, which is of course new to everyone in the IndyCar Series. The layout looks challenging and we believe we have the basis for a very good setup there so we’re keen to get on track.”

NOLA Motorsports Park will host the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 10-12. GET TICKETS, INFO

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It reminds me a lot of the Indy road course, a little bit of Mid-Ohio,” noted Charlie Kimball, who participated in a mid-January test day with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

Around for the weekend festivities

Hinchcliffe, Newgarden and Munoz – along with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams development driver Sage Karam and Mazda Road to Indy drivers Aaron Telitz and Neil Alberico – will be immersed in New Orleans culture is to experience a Mardi Gras parade.

On Feb. 15, they’ll participate in the roaring Krewe of Bacchus Parade aboard the Krewe of Bacchus officers' float. A street-legal IndyCar will pace the float.