EDMONTON - Sebastian Bourdais knows how Ryan Hunter-Reay feels heading to Edmonton with a chance to win a fourth consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series race.
He’s the last one who did it.
It was back in 2006 in the ChampCar Series.
Bourdais, driving for Paul Newman and Carl Haas, won in Long Beach, Houston, Monterrey and Milwaukee.
“It’s just such a great feeling, a great thing when everything is rolling your way,” said Bourdais in a telephone interview after testing in Sonoma, Ariz., prior to heading here for this week’s Edmonton Indy.
“I give Hunter-Reay a lot of credit. Toronto didn’t really look like his race. But he ended up winning it because he never gave up.”
When Bourdais was winning race after race and championship after championship, Hunter-Reay was in a different never-give-up mode. He raced here in 2005 but then went through three years of frustration trying to be a part-time driver, having trouble finding a ride, not to mention getting on teams which could compete when he did.
Now, because Bourdais went away to try Formula 1, their roles are reversed as the French driver makes his re-entry into IndyCar, experiencing how the other half lived.
Finally, however, Bourdais looks like he’s ready to win again.
It’s been a long time for the driver from Le Mans, who won the 2005 and 2007 Edmonton races in the ChampCar Series and finished second in 2006, winning the series title four years in a row.
Bourdais’s last win before leaving ChampCar to join the F1 circuit came in Mexico City in 2007.
He currently sits seventh on the all-time IndyCar win list, tied with Canada’s Paul Tracy and Scotland’s Dario Franchitti with 31 wins each.
Bourdais qualified fourth at Toronto 10 days ago, his highest placing of the season. He was running third in the closing laps of the race before contact with Charlie Kimball and Mike Conway took him out of contention.
Last year, returning from F1, Bourdais picked up a part-time ride and did about as well as the car he was driving would allow him to do, when he made his return to Edmonton to take on the new layout at the City Centre Airport.
He turned the fastest lap of the race — 1:18.9590 on the 80th lap of the 80-lap race to finish sixth.
“We were fast all weekend and we were in the fast six for the first time,” he said.
If Bourdais is ready to win again, he’d love for it to be here.
“Winning in this series has become awfully difficult, but I think we definitely showed in Toronto that we’re a force to be reckoned with. And testing in Sonoma went really well. We got some answers. It’s always nice to have the opportunity to check things out.
“Everything is starting to line up perfectly but we haven’t had it all go our way yet. All I know for sure is that we’re headed in the right direction.”
He’d become the first to win three Edmonton Indy races. But Will Power and Scott Dixon are also two-time champions with the same hopes. They’ve taken turns winning Edmonton since Bourdais and the ChampCar Series went away.
But Bourdais would be, far and away, the better story.
After running a few select races in 2011 for Dale Coyne, Bourdais joined Dragon Racing for a full schedule this year.
One problem: with competing engine makers in the series again, Dragon went with Lotus instead of Honda or Chevrolet. Lotus had nothing but problems and teams were forced to abandon them.
Dragon decided it wasn’t going to be financially feasible to make the switch from Lotus to Chevrolet for two cars. So Katherine Legge took the ovals and Bourdais took the street and road courses to drive for the rest of the season. Which left Bourdais watching the three events leading into Toronto — Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa.
But five of the last six races are his. And there’s hope.
Bourdais won his two Edmonton events on the original layout but doesn’t mind the new one, either.
“The new one definitely isn’t as challenging as the first one for the drivers, but it’s a better track for the public and it’s still challenging. I still like it. And Edmonton has always been pretty good to me.”
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