Sebastien Bourdais
TORONTO – When it comes the race, counting out two-time Honda Indy Toronto winner Sebastien Bourdais would be a grave mistake.

No matter what car he's driving, the four-time Indy car champion is almost always a threat on the streets of Exhibition Place, usually battling near the front and only finishing outside the top 10 once in 13 starts heading into this weekend’s event. In those 13 past races, Bourdais has completed all but seven of a possible 1,071 laps on the temporary street circuit.

HONDA INDY TORONTO: Practice 1 results

Bourdais was sixth fastest in Friday’s first practice with a best lap of 1 minute, 1.1308 seconds (105.178 mph) around the 11-turn, 1.786-mile course.

“I like the Toronto race because the fans and the atmosphere are really great,” said Bourdais, driving the No. 18 Team Mouser Electronics/Molex Honda in Toronto.

“The circuit is fun and, other than (2012, when he finished 14th), my results have been consistently good. Hopefully we can collect another win there this weekend for our sponsors Mouser Electronics and Molex.”

Graham RahalAlthough five of his top finishes came with powerful Newman/Haas Racing from 2003-07, including a win in 2004, moving to outfits with fewer resources hasn’t slowed Bourdais much. He has scored a pair of podium finishes with Dragon Racing in the 2013 doubleheader weekend before claiming his second Toronto win in the first race of the 2014 doubleheader with KVSH Racing.

Driving this season for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, another smaller operation, Bourdais has remained in the championship fight despite going up against he likes of Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, and Andretti Autosport. Bourdais won the season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, to pick up career win No. 37 that ranks sixth all time.

“People are digging it right now that there is a big underdog with limited budget and resources that is playing with the big dogs,” said Bourdais, 10th in the standings after 11 of 17 races.

“The point of our program was to bring a talented group of guys together and give it a go and see what we could do, and I guess we are starting to see a little bit of what we can do. It just kind of shows that in INDYCAR, if you have the right people in the right places, you don't need huge resources to get the job done right and be a contender.”

Championship leader Scott Dixon paced the opening practice with a top lap of 1:00.7474 (105.842 mph) in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Graham Rahal was second in the No. 15 Rousseau Honda (1:00.9385, 105.510 mph) as Honda-powered drivers swept the first six spots in the 45-minute session that was stopped once for a red flag when Jordan King came to a stop in Turn 6 after making slight wall contact in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

A second practice starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and streams live on, and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon P1 Award qualifying is scheduled to start at 1:55 p.m. Saturday and streams live at the same locations, with a same-day telecast at 5 p.m. on NBCSN. Sunday’s race airs live at 3 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. If the checkered flag waves for him in Toronto for a third time on Sunday, Bourdais will take time to appreciate the accomplishment.

“It's even more rewarding definitely and I savor and enjoy it,” the 39-year-old Frenchman said. “To win with Newman/Haas was expected, and when you were not winning, people would wonder what happened. I very much enjoy being successful with Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan because it's just so much more valuable and means that much more."