|Bourdais shows up to visit with team|
By now, most AR1 people have seen Bourdais press conference, or perhaps read the transcript online. We were able to observe some things, and ask some question, to add a bit more to the story.
Sebastien was, at first, his very usual self — self-depreciating at times, openly honest, determined. But at one point, when he talked about the effect that the crash had on his family, he did seem to get very emotional. He doesn't recall about 10 seconds of the event (mostly the rolling over part) but obviously it had a big effect on his family.
We caught up with team owner Dale Coyne after the event. He was visibly tired on the second day of qualifying, but no one smiled bigger than Coyne during the presser. We asked about the impact of the situation on him and his team. Coyne admitted that Bourdais was the team's key asset, their key player. Minus the crash, and a bit of prior bad luck, Sebastien could easily be leading the points and be a favorite for the race. Today, that is gone, with Bourdais probably out of the car for 3 months.
Bourdais declined to get into detail on new safety measures, but Coyne was open on the need for further side impact protection. He said that the tub was repairable on the front, but the entire side was gone. This need for side impact protection has, apparently, been a known issue, and should be addressed with the next version of the IndyCar spec car.
— Tim Wohlford, reporting from IMS
MODERATOR: The first question is, how are you doing?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I’m doing good enough to be here. So that’s great. It’s great to be out of the hospital environment. I’ve never really faced that before. It’s great to feel normal right now and to be able to walk around and see some familiar faces and see a lot of friends.
MODERATOR: What is the rehabilitation process like for you right now?
BOURDAIS: Just a lot of pain management. That’s the biggest thing. With a lot of pain killers, I can do a lot, and I don’t feel so sharp when they wear off. It’s just going to be a long process. I can’t put any weight on my right leg for another five weeks. So it’s just going to be patience and trying to make sure I’m ready when it matters. I’m shooting for the end of the season in Sonoma. That’s just a good target for me to have something in the mind.
MODERATOR: It was just a week ago you went through surgery for fractures in your hips, yet you’re here with us today. Why was it so important for you to be here today for the Indy 500?
BOURDAIS: I don’t know. I think Dale (Coyne) was like, ‘Do you want to be here?’ For me, it’s just important to make sure that I stay in good spirits. Physically I’m doing well, and I have no intention to let this incident stop my career or anything. It’s even more important to come back before the end of the season because otherwise it’s going to be a long offseason with a lot of questions and uncertainty and everything. We had a really quick car at Sonoma, so I’m keeping the hopes that I will be able to race there and to be competitive. It kind of kick-starts 2018 with some good races and get the spirits of the team where they need to be.
MODERATOR: A familiar face stepping into your race car, the 18, James Davison. Have you had a chance to speak with him and talk with him about the challenges of this race and what it means to be a part of the Dale Coyne Racing team?
BOURDAIS: Yeah. Obviously, he’s done the race a couple of times, so he knows what he’s getting himself into. Actually, he’s really good here, and he’s a good kid. I wish him all the best. It’s great that we’ve found someone that’s able to carry the flag for the 18 and GEICO and Mouser and Honda and everybody onboard, and I’m really looking forward to him having a spectacular day. I really think he’s actually got a shot to do something good. It really doesn’t matter where you start here. It’s all about what your race car is about. What I saw on Carb Day was pretty impressive. I knew we had a great car. The car is good but not as quick as it used to be because all of the trick stuff that was on the race car is in the trash right now. It’s too bad. Might not have enough to win the race but definitely enough for a strong showing and be able to have a good result.
Q: Watching the accident on TV, the car did more or less exactly what was expected, protecting you as a driver. But do you have anything you can approach Dallara about to make the car more safer?
BOURDAIS: It’s not something I want to debate here. It’s a lot of stuff that maybe you can discuss about side protection that hopefully will prevent collapsing on side impacts and reduce the kind of injuries I sustained in that crash. The car did a really good job head-on. I don’t have any injuries on my feet or anything like that. But if we could avoid pelvis and hip fractures like that, that would be great. But I don’t think there a lot of people who can say they have survived a head-on crash at 227. I don’t know that everybody knows, but I was still full throttle when I hit the wall. It’s a pretty good testament.
Q: How much does a hard wreck like this bring home the seriousness of the accident?
BOURDAIS: It’s tough on my family, for sure. It’s harder than for me. When I saw the wall coming, I was like, ‘Oh, boy: That’s going to be bad.’ But pretty soon after it was lights out for a couple of seconds. I didn’t lift through the tumbling; I regained consciousness when the car was on its wheels and coming to rest. For my wife, I’m sure, and my parents, it was quite a bit different. All that matters is that we’re here and well now, and we’ll come back.
Q: You had such a strong month and season to this point. How does all the progress you guys have made starting the year motivate you to come back this year?
A: We’re building something at Dale Coyne Racing thanks to (inaudible) and all the engineers and everybody who is hard at work, the mechanics and all. I think we have a great launching pad for the future, and I want to be part of that. That’s why I want to come back as soon as possible and as soon as we … what we talked about before. If I didn’t feel like there wasn’t something to fight for, I probably wouldn’t be here right now, and I probably wouldn’t care about coming back before the end of the season. But there is definitely something to be done. The Grand Prix was a really big satisfaction for the group, to be able to qualify in the Fast Six and feel like we were on the right path, starting to understand what we needed to get the car to function the way I want. It was all kind of jelling together. The car was much faster and much better than anybody could have dreamed of at the beginning of the month here at the 500. It looked like it definitely a force to be reckoned with. The first two laps were eye-opening, for me, included. And it definitely taught me a little bit, too. I’ve never been in that position before, and I wasn’t going to lift. Maybe I should have. But it’s too late for that. So it’s eyes forward and go from there.
Q: Take us through the timeline you had of your injuries. At what point did you know this is bad and this could have been worse and at what point you decided, “I have a chance to get back in the race car?"
BOURDAIS: Instantly I knew it was broken. I looked down to see if there was something that penetrated. I could feel pain straightaway. I looked down and couldn’t see anything and thought, ‘Oh, boy.’ It’s got to be hip or pelvis. So the Holmatro guys over and were like, “Are you OK?" And I said no. They were like, “Are you sure?" “Yes, I’m sure." Then from there it was just a lot of pain for five hours. That was pretty much the timeframe from the moment I crashed to the moment we went into surgery. I kind of wish I lost consciousness, to be honest, because it was really just a very unpleasant moment. I guess it will teach me not to do that again. After that, the injuries, it was nothing that complex. It was pretty simple cracks and fractures. So the first surgeon got it done all at once. He was worried we were going to have to do in two stages. Thankfully he completed it in only one, and I was stable enough to do the surgery to do that. That was very important because when he came to me and was like, “Man, it’s probably going to be a two-stage," I was like, “Oh, man. I’m going to have to do this twice." Thankfully it was a one-thing deal. It’s like any bone; it takes just time to heal. It’s going to be three months, plus or minus. Hopefully the shorter, the better. Whatever it will be, it will be.
Q: At what point did you say, “Yeah, I’ll be able to drive?"
BOURDAIS: Honestly, before the surgery I didn’t really think about that. I was in way too much pain for that. Then when I came out of surgery and they gave me a rundown of what had been done and everything, then I knew there was nothing terrible. It was all going to be fairly easy to recover from. I was curious right away after that.
Q: How do you see your role changing with the team? Do you plan to remain active with Dale Coyne Racing?
BOURDAIS: Yeah. I don’t think Dale has to fire me yet. Am I OK?
DALE COYNE: You’re OK. (Laughter)
BOURDAIS: I’ll just do whatever I can to assist. I’m going to try also to spend as much time as I can with the family. We have a trip to the national parks organized already that was organized before this. So my schedule should be much more open, so we will able to get the coach there. We have another family and friends that are going to come with us. We’re going to go from Yellowstone down to Vegas. That’s going to be pretty nice. Just going to try and make the best of the situation.
Q: Have you figured out what happened? Were you going to fast or did something break in the car?
BOURDAIS: Nothing broke in the car. Honestly, it’s a lot of little factors. Me being stubborn about it. I had all these little baby lifts all month long, and we worked on that. We broke a chicken leg a couple of times. There was no chicken leg on the qualifying run.