Bourdais: speaks about IndyCar's 'pack' racing
“It’s not a secret that I would like to do the full season next year, but it has to be the right circumstances,” Sebastien Bourdais told SPEED.com from his home in France the night before the Las Vegas IndyCar finale.
As he shared, his desire to win more Indy car championships was tempered by concerns over how close cars ran on the 1.5-mile ovals.
“You have the new car coming and maybe the style of racing on the ovals will be different. I’ve talked with Dale [Coyne] about next year, and there could be some other opportunities, but there are still many variables. But if it makes sense, I would like to race in America again. We will have to wait and see.”
After the Vegas debacle he still wants to return fulltime to IndyCars, but not to their 'pack' racing formula.
“I would say my desire to race in IndyCars has not changed since Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s actually looking better now than before. Before, I had big reservations about the one-and-a-half [mile ovals] and now I think we will never see that type of racing again. That takes a big chunk of the risk out of the equation and makes everything a lot better. After what happened, I don’t think we can go back to the way it used to be.”
“The one big question the series has to answer is what they are going to do with ovals,” said Bourdais. “What are they going to do with the other ones. They now realize they cannot go racing like this ever again. Everybody has been throwing [out] ideas to come up with changes. A lot of changes can be made and so on and so forth, but the biggest one, for me, is the fact that the pack racing has to disappear.”
“If you want to make the cars so you can drive them at Texas and places like that, you [would] have to come up with some pretty radical solutions—especially if they don’t plan on using more power,” he said. “I think people are very sensitive to where things are going right now. What [is INDYCAR] going to do with ovals? We know Indianapolis will always stay, but what is the strategy with the other ovals?
“I can only speak for me, but I don’t think you have a case where the drivers don’t want to go fast; the challenge of the oval tracks is a big deal, but you don’t want to take extra risks just to race [on] them. What kind of oval racing do they want to promote? What kind of identity do they want? It’s not going to be an easy call. I think there is a global understanding that we cannot keep racing the same way. The series needs to think about this very seriously.”
“It’s not only the tracks we must evaluate,” he said. “There are also many technical things we must address. At the end of the day, what we’ve not seen on the one-and-a-half [mile ovals] is racing. It’s [an aerodynamic] drag contest. Oval racing should be about drivers driving cars at the limit. And if they screw up, they wreck. I’m completely OK to take risks on my own. If I screw it up--if I crash, it’s my fault. And that’s OK.
“Now if we’re racing side-by-side or nose-to-tail for 40 laps and all you do is wait for one guy to back off to create a huge wreck, that’s not racing. That is the technical regulations making the racing like this. That’s being thrown in the middle of an arena and being called Gladiators. But we’re not Gladiators. We’re just racing drivers. The cars should allow us to be in control as much as possible.”
“You have to do everything you can to prevent the things that went wrong [at Las Vegas],” he said. “You can’t have guys driving like crazy, you can’t interlock wheels, you can’t have cars launched up in the air. What happened at Las Vegas was an absurdity. It was what we always feared. I think that everybody is willing and able to take risks if it’s in their hands, but if it’s only trying to sneak as many cars as possible on the same square meter of track for the finish, I don’t see the point. I’ve always considered it like NASCAR racing with open wheels.
“And all of these ‘closest [oval] finishes in history’… Let’s cut the crap. This is not racing. This is not what I want to see from oval racing. Maybe that kind of danger is what some people came to watch, like the ‘big one’ they talk about in NASCAR. Well, truth is, if you want to see a ‘big one’ in IndyCar racing, you’re going to be witness to a killing. And I don’t think that’s what IndyCar wants. They have a big decision ahead of them, and I hope they make the right one. Tragedies make people wake up and I hope nobody forgets this.”