ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Sebastien Bourdais wasn’t satisfied with the current bid on the firesuit he wore when he won last year’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was one of a kind, he noted in commandeering the auctioneer’s microphone, because the only other of these red Dale Coyne Racing models had been cut off him after his crash during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 last May.
A couple thousand dollars would have been a welcome addition to the more than $110,000 the St. Petersburg resident and four-time Indy car champion helped raised in spearheading the annual Kart4Kids event to benefit Johns Hopkins All-Children’s Hospital located a couple minutes from the temporary street course that hosts the race each year.
Bourdais, who has become the figurehead and the prime mover of the charity event in recent years – “I’ve been a bad dad for two months, but it’s worth it,” he said of his time invested in Kart4Kids – wanted a fitting capper to an evening that included a go-kart race with 10 INDYCAR drivers on a course set up in Turn 1 of the main track. So he turned his attention from the online auction of driver memorabilia he’d been monitoring on his phone and thumbed through his contact for Darren Jack, a Canadian enthusiast who founded the Racing Hall of Fame Collection.
Done deal. Within moments, Bourdais signaled an eventual winning bid of $3,600 for the firesuit.
“I knew he wanted it,” Bourdais said afterward. “He bought the helmet (from Bourdais’ 2017 win) last year. He also wants the shoes and the gloves, but he’s going to have to wait for another year.”
The sale put the final flourish on an evening Bourdais said will likely raise upward of $130,000, obliterating the mark of around $81,000 set last year. All Children’s Hospital was presented a check for $110,000 before the auction was held, as $80,000 was raised through 16 sponsored kart teams and $30,000 had poured in as donations. Anderson Race Park donated thousands in time and equipment, Bourdais said, in building the kart track on the real course for the first time.
“We got the green light to bring the event here on Jan. 20 or Jan. 15. That was a lot of work from a lot of people and it’s just cool when you see a community pull together like that to do great things and not counting hours, just being open-minded with it and doing good things,” said Bourdais, who saw the helmet he will use in Sunday’s race purchased for $6,000.
Drivers from multiple series competing this weekend raced in a pro-am of teams comprised of sponsors and donors, but the appearance of the INDYCAR drivers – the most ever – was notable for Bourdais and his peers. Three-time St. Petersburg winner Helio Castroneves, grand marshal for the event this weekend after moving to Team Penske’s sports car program, seemed startled as he gathered for a professional driver briefing.
“Did they get everybody?” he asked. They got a lot. Castroneves, Takuma Sato – who arrived in full firesuit as opposed to his more street casual comrades – Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan and Bourdais, who comprise seven Indianapolis 500 wins and 10 season championships, were among the participants.
“It shows what we can do as a group,” said Bourdais. “It shows we can be unselfish at times, which in our job isn’t always a priority. It was good to see how things turned out.”
INDYCAR's involvement in Kart4Kids falls under the INDYCAR Cares initiative that embodies all charitable efforts of the sanctioning body's drivers, teams, sponsors and the league in serving our fans and our community.