Sebastien Bourdais and Martin Plowman to Dale Coyne Racing UPDATE #3
"There're a couple little things to work out," Coyne said when asked about signing Bourdais while testing at Sebring. "Everything should come together here. It's a fluid beginning of the season for a lot of people. We're happy with him and I think he's happy with us, so we'll see what we can work out."
"We knew we needed to put some people together," Coyne said. "A couple good people became available and obviously when you have a driver of his caliber, you have more people that are interested, so it all kind of works together. It's good for what he wanted. It's good for what I wanted."
"If he's going to pay me to come and race for him, and there's not the right people around, he might as well just save the money because I'm no super hero," said Bourdais, who was released from Scuderia Toro Rosso midway through the 2009 season, then raced briefly in Superleague. "I'm a good guy if I'm surrounded by quality people and a good team. There is no magic in this. You need the right things to get it right, and you're going to go up against four Ganassis and three Penskes and four Andrettis. So yeah, you can't say it's going to be all right. It doesn't work like that."
Bourdais would contest all nine non-oval events, leaving Coyne to find a co-driver for the remaining eight ovals. He also has scheduling conflicts with several IndyCar oval events because he will race six sports car events for Peugeot and resides in LeMans, France.
"There are some ovals which are fun to drive," said Bourdais, who won at Las Vegas and Milwaukee in a Champ Car schedule dominated by street and road courses. "Indy is being a part of it, and Milwaukee, but for sure there are some ovals I wouldn't be looking forward to, superspeedways where you're just flat-out all around and you're just waiting for it to wreck. That's just not what I like to do, but I've done it before."
"We want to win. It's very hard to win on an oval," Coyne said. "We looked at the reality of it. Those [Ganassi] red cars have won just about everything on an oval, as long as I can remember. [Former Andretti Autosport driver Tony] Kanaan got one on them last year at Iowa, but other than that it's been pretty consistent for the top two teams. Road courses are a different animal. [AA's] Ryan [Hunter-Reay] won a race last year. We won a race the year before [with Wilson at Watkins Glen]. You need everything to be right on any given day, but it can happen."
Coyne first contacted Bourdais last summer, but the birth of the driver's second child and complications with his LeMans Series season made the situation "just too much last-minute and too complicated, so we stayed in touch." Bourdais tested at Sebring with Coyne in January and is scheduled to undertake an open IndyCar test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., next week. He said it is too early to even contemplate a potential full-time return to North American open wheel racing.
"There is no real plan," he said. "This opportunity came up. I hope it's going to happen. And then what happens next, I don't know. The Peugeot thing seems to be rolling quite nicely and it's great and at the same time, it's always down to them selling cars. Tomorrow, if the market goes south, which always is a possibility, then there might not be a program anymore. So when the possibility to do this happened, or is kind of happening, I was more like, "Well, why not?" I've got one foot in one series and the other in another, and it sort of keeps the doors open.
"Obviously next year, with the series changing the rules, and the cars and the structure, maybe there will be some opportunities if you can be in the mix. But there is no clear plan to just do this for a year or anything of the like. We'll give it a try if we can and see what happens."
"That's what's exciting about it, but obviously if it was to materialize, the expectations are completely different," he said. "It's a relatively small team. We'd go for highlights, you know, one-shots and try to hopefully get one every now and then. You have to be serious and reasonable in your expectations. We are up against such high competition in terms of structured teams and stuff. Otherwise, it would make no sense to have a structured, well-funded team."
"I think there's unfinished business for all of us," he said. "We want to prove that race win wasn't a fluke. I think he wants to prove he can still be a winner. I think we're a good match and we're out to prove something." SI.com02/01/11 Speaking with Dale Coyne late Tuesday afternoon, the veteran owner and driver confirmed to SPEED.com that a deal is in the works to hire the French ace, but nothing has been solidified.
"The first draft of our press release was worded maybe a bit too strongly--it sounded a bit too confirming, so we sent out another one and softened things up a bit. But we want to do it and he wants to do it, so if the stars align, I hope to be able to do something with him."
"It would just be for the road courses. He has his commitment to Peugeot for the full Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) series, so there are a bunch of conflicts on the ovals that would make a full-season impossible. He would be free for the road courses, so that's what our discussions have been on, primarily."
"He and his wife had their second child last year, and I think after everything got settled, he was open to exploring some new things," Coyne explained. "He's been incredibly motivated and inspired with what we've done so far. If we get a guy like him, the onus would be on us to raise our game to match what he brings. Sebastien wasn't sure what he'd think about the Dallara-Honda, but he liked it quite a lot and went really fast.
"At the end of the day, he's a racer and I think he feels he has a bit of unfinished business. His attitude was wonderful and he was more impressed with the car than he thought he would be. He's just happy to be able to see the wheel again!"
Coyne confirmed that he plans on fielding a two-car team again, and says the candidates--including Martin Plowman who tested alongside Bourdais, and Coyne's top driver from 2010, Alex Lloyd--are in the frame for a seat. With the BSA car potentially having at least a half-season open for another driver to step in during Bourdais' race conflicts with Peugeot, Coyne could carry three drivers this year.
"The whole program for our team is about running two cars, and a lot of it is up in the air, but having someone like Sebastien [representing BSA] would bring a lot of attention to the Boy Scouts. Everything is a possibility at this point; Plowman did a great job and Alex Lloyd certainly isn't out of the picture. I'd say in two weeks we'll know what the plan will be for drivers and cars, and who will drive what and when."02/01/11 Team owner Coyne said the potential signing of Bourdais was part of his big ambitions for the team.
"We have talked with Sebastien before and this is an opportunity that has great potential," he said. "We are very serious about moving our effort forward and this, coupled with the continuing Boy Scouts of America sponsorship program from last season, is one of the most important steps in that direction we can possibly make."
02/01/11 Dale Coyne Racing ran their first test of the season on the short course of Sebring International Raceway. The Plainfield, Illinois based team is off to a strong start as it works toward its plan for an exciting 2011 IndyCar season.
In his first return to Indy Cars since winning a record setting 4th consecutive Championship in 2007, Sebastien Bourdais picked up right where he left off. During the one day test, the talented Frenchman ran the quickest laps of 2011 ahead of the eight other drivers that have tested there this year.
“The car was very good and it really felt good to be back in an Indy Car,” reported Bourdais. “I was not sure what to expect, but I was impressed with the way the car handled, and look forward to putting together the pieces to get back into Indy Car racing. I really believe in what Dale is doing with his team and it can be a great opportunity for both of us this year.” zzzz
Sebastien returned to the cockpit of an Indy Car after a three year sabbatical which saw him compete two years in Formula 1, as well as his current duties in the Intercontinental LeMans Cup. Sebastien Bourdais brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, as noted in his stellar record of 31 Champ Car wins.
“We have talked with Sebastien before and this is an opportunity that has great potential,” reported team owner Dale Coyne. “We are very serious about moving our effort forward and this, coupled with the continuing Boy Scouts of America program from last season, is one of the most important steps we can possibly make.”
Joining Bourdais on track Monday was Indy Lights standout Martin Plowman. Martin got his first taste of the powerful Indy car, where he posted an impressive 3rd best time of the 2011 drivers.
“I was very happy with how my test went today. For me this day was 15 years in the making so it was exciting to finally get out there and drive an IndyCar,” Plowman stated. “I felt right at home with the team and my engineers. The car was very quick straight out of the box and we were right on pace after our first session. I’m really excited about the challenge ahead of me.”
Martin has competed the past two years in Indy Lights. 2010 saw Martin take a convincing win at Mid-Ohio on his way to finishing 3rd in the Indy Lights Championship.
“We have tested a lot of new drivers over the years, and you generally know what you have on the first day,” said Coyne. “Martin is one of the best that we have seen and we look forward to a positive growth curve with this aspiring young talent.”
Testing at Sebring was planned for one day. The team will spend February preparing for final plans and a full testing schedule in March before the first race of the year in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 27th.
Our 2011 IndyCar Silly Season page (see link above) has been updated with these 2 drivers.