His candor unfiltered as usual, Sebastien Bourdais recently summed up his NTT IndyCar Series season.
“I think the season has gone badly enough at times that we’re in a position where championship-wise it’s not really worth looking at it,” Bourdais said of being 11th in the points. “We just kind of look forward and try to get the best we can (out of the last two races).”
That comment was made prior to the Sept. 1 Grand Prix of Portland, another installment of how Bourdais had quick pace that didn’t materialize into the desired result. The No. 18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda finished ninth, but much like this season, it could have been much better.
At one point during practice on the 1.967-mile, 12-turn Portland International Raceway permanent road course, the four-time Indy car champion from France posted the fastest lap. Then the next, he drove off course into a tire barrier. It was similar to what he did last year at this track.
“They told me P1,” Bourdais said jokingly. “OK, better call it a day.”
A fuel issue in qualifying dropped him to a 12th-place start, although he had the speed to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six shootout. He displayed that speed yet again in the race as he turned the fastest lap and neared the top five, but a fuel hose issue dropped him back.
That's why he's understandably disappointed about 2019 entering the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. It’s another road course, the type of circuit where Bourdais and his team was really competitive last year. The emphasis there: Last year.
“This year, we just lost ground,” Bourdais said. “We just haven’t been as good and fell off the cliff a little bit.”
Bourdais was seventh in the point standings last year, his best finish since joining the series full time in 2011. And he had two previous wins at Portland, although Bourdais was quick to allude that those came when he was driving for Newman-Haas in CART, a much different time, and an era where he dominated.
“I think obviously a lot of the stats have to do with very old and very different times when I was at Newman-Haas and winning championships,” he said.
Bourdais is still convinced he should be able to contend with this series’ best, but it’s been a challenge for the driver with 37 career wins, which ranks sixth all-time, as well as 34 poles, which is seventh on the career list. He’s the only driver to ever win four consecutive Indy car championships (2004 to 2007).
But, again, that was then.
Bourdais has won at least one race in the past five seasons. That streak is now in jeopardy. He has had two top-fives this season, a fifth at Circuit of The Americas in Texas and third at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Then there have been too many good but not great results, 10 ranging from seventh to 11th place.
As another season draws to a close, Bourdais lamented another “could’ve been” in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on Aug. 24. He qualified second, but crashed out in 19th.
True to his nature, he points the finger at nobody but himself.
“It would have been second or third,” he said. “There’s a lot of those in a season, but until last weekend I really had not made that many mistakes, which is a good point. I guess I always manage to find one. It’s just my thing. I’ve got to mess it up at some point.
“Even when I was winning championships, I’d take off out of the car. I always seem to find a way to make it spectacular.”
INDYCAR concludes its 17-race season with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 22. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT local) with the green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).