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Sebastien Bourdais Flipping Back To Coyne

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 13 2016
Sebastien Bourdais is headed back to Dale Coyne Racing. (File photo by Chris Jones)

Sebastien Bourdais is headed back to Dale Coyne Racing. (File photo by Chris Jones)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Sebastien Bourdais will contest the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with Dale Coyne Racing, where he will be reunited with the engineer who guided him to four consecutive Champ Car World Series titles.

bugindynotesCraig Hampson orchestrated Bourdais’ impressive title run from 2004-2007 at Newman/Haas Racing. In 56 total starts during that period, Bourdais posted 26 poles and 28 of his career 35 Indy car victories _ numbers that earned the Frenchman a Formula One ride with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2008. In addition, engineer Olivier Boisson, who guided Bourdais to his four most recent victories at KVSH Racing, has joined Coyne’s team to work with veteran holdover engineer Michael Cannon.

“Yeah, I think it’s really exciting,” Bourdais said during a national teleconference on Wednesday. “There were a lot of discussions about how we could make this a great opportunity for everybody. I think, thanks to Dale’s efforts, commitment to the series, to IndyCar, it’s definitely a great window for us to achieve something really interesting.

“Obviously the key was to be able to reinforce the engineering department which was already in place. They had some really good results this year with Conor (Daly) as a rookie. That was one thing. But for me to be able to continue with Olivier, my engineer from KVSH, and to bring a guy of the caliber of Craig in the system, was definitely the key. Super exciting factor to try and be confident that we could be really competitive and build a strong organization, engineering-driven.

“Dale’s commitment is a testament to what he wants to achieve. I couldn’t be any happier, thanks to his efforts and all the personal investment, that we could be able to do that.”

Bourdais finished 14th in points in 2016, 404 behind reigning series champion and fellow-Frenchman Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske. Bourdais counted a victory on the Belle Isle street circuit in Detroit among his three top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 16 starts for KVSH.

Bourdais first raced for Dale Coyne Racing in 2011, making nine starts and scoring a best finish of sixth in a partial schedule that marked his return to racing in the United States after his stint in F1. Since his return to Indy car racing in 2011, Bourdais has earned four wins and eight podium finishes.

“This is a two-year program with Sebastien,” Coyne said. “This is not just a one-year program. It’s two years and possibly more. So we’re excited about that. Especially next year with the equalizer coming in 2018 with an aero kit the same for everyone, I think that will really help us.

“Obviously, we’ve been a long-time fan of Sebastien from the CART days. When he went to Formula One, he proved himself pretty well over there against some tough odds. We talked long and hard about bringing him back. He came back. He’s been here for a few years now, run the full season. We’ve been talking for a while now, last year or so. It’s just the timing is right.”

Bourdais _ only driver to win four consecutive INDYCAR championships _ is scheduled to hit the ground running today during a closed Firestone tire test on Gateway Motorsports Park’s 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Ill., outside St. Louis. “I’m pretty excited to get in the car and experience it myself,” said Bourdais, a 37-year-old native of Le Mans, France.

Hampson most recently has been working as a home-based engineer with Andretti Autosport, another Honda-powered team. KVSH’s single-car team fielded a Chevrolet-powered Dallara for Bourdais last season. “Yeah, there will be a transition there,” said Bourdais, addressing Honda’s engine/aerodynamic package. “I definitely think that Honda has a very strong engine package. I’m curious to discover the aero package aspect of it.

“We have a lot of work to put procedures in place and to incorporate these two great engineers in the team. We’ll kind of debug the system (at Gateway), which is kind of a free test for us, being able to join the tire test. It doesn’t go against our four test days that we have to our disposal. Hopefully we can start to identify the pros and the cons to our system.

“Olivier is not with us yet. That’s another one. But definitely super-excited, thanks to Dale’s efforts to start the program that early, incorporate all these great people that early in the game.”

Coyne’s revised engineering department could help his organization shake its long-standing underdog tag. “The ‘underdog’ thing can be a stigma that stays with you for a long time,” said Coyne, whose organization based in Plainfield, Ill., has logged one pole and four wins dating to 1984. “When the management decides to spend the money and get the right people to do the right resources, an underdog team can become something much greater.

“Years and years ago somebody gave me a T-shirt that said we were the Chicago Cubs of racing. I hope we’re the Chicago Cubs of racing next year. They’ve changed from an underdog to a championship team.”

Bourdais acknowledged the series’ heavy-hitters _ Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Andretti Autosport _ can be expected to dominate. “The competition is getting really fierce,” Bourdais said. “You need all the tools to be able to, as a driver, achieve what you want to do, which is running at the front and winning races. I really believe that Dale’s bringing a lot to the table, and the consistency at least for sure at KVSH that we lacked during the two winters I’ve been part of the organization. I can only trust Dale that we’ll have everything we need to move forward.

“Does it mean we’re a top team? Of course not. We’ll still be building the team and trying to evaluate where the strengths and weaknesses of the team are. I trust all the people that are involved to give their very best, and I will do the same. I’m very confident we can do something really interesting.”

Coyne said Cannon will be lead engineer on the team’s second car, whose driver has yet to be confirmed for 2017. The status of Daly, who finished 18th in points for DCR as a rookie in 2016, has not been determined.

Ironically, Daly posted his best career finish of second to Bourdais when he won the opening race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Raceway at Belle Isle Park on June 4. Bourdais finished 2.0401-seconds ahead of Daly on the 2.35-mile temporary street course for his 35th career victory, tying him with Bobby Unser for sixth on the all-time list.

Coyne also fielded Gabby Chaves for seven races, Luca Filippi (five) and RC Enerson (three) in the ongoing search for a productive pair.

“We’re working very close to some programs with all the usual suspects to get something done here by the end of this month so we’ll know both of our drivers going into November,” Coyne said. “Love to have it done by the end of this month. Not sure that will happen yet, but that’s kind of a goal I’m setting. We have some favorite sons we’d like to try to do something with.”

Coyne is not sure if Bourdais will drive the No. 18 or No. 19 car in 2017. “We’re still working on lots of sponsorship programs,” Coyne said. “Depending on how that comes out, that will determine whether it’s the No. 18 or the No. 19.”

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Tony Kanaan and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams have re-upped for a fourth consecutive season in 2017 with primary sponsorship from NTT DATA as part of a multi-year deal on the No. 10 Honda.

Tony Kanaan and team owner Chip Ganassi will spend another season together.

Tony Kanaan and team owner Chip Ganassi will stay together for a while.

Kanaan, who finished seventh in points in 2016 for CGRT, is the 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner.  The popular Brazilian scored his first win for CGRT at the season-finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in 2014. “TK” will continue the legacy of the No. 10 car which features a combined 20 wins from himself, Dario Franchitti (13) and the late Dan Wheldon (6) dating to 2006.

“I’m thrilled to be back with Chip and NTT DATA _ it’s been one of the most rewarding partnerships of my career,” Kanaan, 41, said in a statement. “Our 2016 season was strong, but our results didn’t always reflect our performance and we definitely have some unfinished business heading into 2017.”

Kanaan scored 461 points last season, 198 behind reigning champion Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske. Kanaan was winless in 18 starts with five top-five and 12 top-10 results. A 17-time race-winner, Kanaan has earned 11 podium-finishes over his three-year career with CGRT.

The 2017 season will mark Kanaan’s 20th INDYCAR campaign. He is the all-time series leader in consecutive starts with 267 dating to the Portland, Ore., race in 2001. In 2004, he became the first driver to complete every lap during a season en route to winning the championship. Kanaan has logged 326 Indy car starts with 17 wins, 15 poles, 129 top-five and 209 top-10 finishes from 1998-present.

“We are very happy to re-sign Tony to drive the No. 10 for us, but are just as pleased to bring a great partner like NTT DATA back to the team,” team-owner Ganassi said. “Tony has played a strong role as one of the leaders of this team both on and off the track and we feel fortunate to have him back.”

NTT DATA is a leading business and IT services provider and global innovation partner with 80,000 professionals based in over 40 countries. “NTT DATA has proved to be a fantastic partner in many different aspects of our organization,” Ganassi said. “They are not only on our cars but they have also used their technological expertise to help in numerous other aspects of the race team. They have been with us for the last four years and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with them for years to come.”

 Ganassi announced last Friday his IndyCar Series program was bolting the Chevrolet camp for turbocharged Honda V6 power beginning with the 2017 season as part of a multi-year deal. Honda Performance Development and CGRT have a history dating to 1996, when the organizations combined to win CGRT’s first INDYCAR championship with Jimmy Vasser.

The renewed relationship will see the team and carmaker take aim at adding to the INDYCAR record book, where they have combined to win nine of CGRT’s 11 championships and 77 of the team’s 102 victories over a 12-year partnership.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 13 2016
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