September 23, 2018

MOTORSPORTS: Bourdais snatches IndyCar victory in St. Pete

13 March 2018, 05:24 | Silvia Roy

MOTORSPORTS: Bourdais snatches IndyCar victory in St. Pete

MOTORSPORTS: Bourdais snatches IndyCar victory in St. Pete

After he had taken the lead on lap 85, the Honda appeared to be on cruise control for the win with fellow Honda driver Alexander Rossi behind.

"It would have been a fairy tale to finish that well, but sometimes it's just not meant to be", Wickens said.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver took his 37th win in the USA series after inheriting the lead when a clash between leader Robert Wickens and challenger Alex Rosso put both men out of contention on a restart just two laps from the end of the race.

Wickens finished 18th while Rossi ended up third. With apologies to Robert Wickens, you really couldn't have asked for a better story to start the season, and I've got a sneaking suspicion that we haven't seen the last of Bourdais in victory circle. Wickens is one of seven rookies in the 24-driver field but is actually a star in the European touring series he left to try America's open-wheel series.

Wickens will win multiple races this season and, along with teammate James Hinchcliffe, will ensure that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will be a serious championship force.

The incident took Wickens out of the race and slowed Rossi enough that Bourdais moved into the lead and Rahal into second. A slip could've also cost Rossi his chance at contending, if not for a late caution that closed the distance between him and Wickens. With just a handful of laps remaining, Rossi enjoyed a good run on Wickens down to Turn 1, enticing him to dive up the inside of the Brit, but the Andretti driver lost his rear end and wiped out his rival on the spot.

Rossi's vehicle hit Wickens, sending him into a spin. I defended a little bit, but the track was so dirty off line that I told myself that if Alex wants to go there, go for it, but he's not going to make the corner. "I think it's going to make for a very interesting May. I just need to see everything before I comment".

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Bourdais slid by both cars from third for the victory.

"We didn't have the fastest auto today but we had consistency and we pulled it together", the native of Le Mans, France, said.

Bourdais now ranks sixth on IndyCar's all-time list, two wins behind Al Unser for fifth.

When Bourdais was seriously injured in a crash at Indianapolis last May while preparing for the Indy 500, there was initial fear that he would miss the rest of the season, let alone possibly never race again.

"When I got the verdict of what (bones) was broken and that it was going to heal pretty well, there was never a question in my mind whether I should continue or stop", he said. "I guess I'm glad I did continue".

Anticipation was high as we were given our first idea of the potential pecking order for the season, but a lottery of a qualifying session gave us a result no one expected and was backed up by an enthralling race which could have been won by a number of drivers, but none were deserving than one man. The team this year has been bolstered by the ownership group of Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan, which reunited Bourdais with his former bosses. Rossi went on to finish third.

"He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner".

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"I think bumping is important to the 500 because it's always been such a big part of the 500, the story, how many people failed, how many people made it at the last second", Rahal said. But there's no reason why I can't pop and stay next to him. "I don't have to (put) all four wheels on the part of the track nobody goes on".

The American, who recently appeared on the reality TV show "The Amazing Race", said he not spoken to Wickens but imagined that Wickens was upset with him. But Rossi was adamant that he didn't err and was justified in racing for the win. I like Rossi; he races hard all the time, but then he gets out of the vehicle and is quiet. IndyCar officials touted the new Dallara as safer, cheaper and potentially racier, and St. Pete had a race-record 366 on-track passes.

"It all worked out", said Rahal, who started the race last after being penalized in qualifying on Saturday for causing a red-flag stoppage when his vehicle stopped on track.

The slot was, indeed, not very clean.

After the incident with Robert Wickens as the two were battling for the win, Rossi wasn't penalized by INDYCAR race stewards.

That was before the final restart of the race after Max Chilton spun and stalled in turn 8 on lap 107.

2013 St. Pete victor James Hinchcliffe was fourth, and Hunter-Reay, after going to the back of the pack rounded out the top five.

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