Sebastien Bourdais will be back for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series season in 2021 with A.J. Foyt Racing. While he had been scheduled to split the No. 14 machine throughout the 2020 IndyCar season, the coronavirus pandemic put his plans on hold. But he’ll be the one behind the wheel as the series wraps up its last three races of this season and all of next year.
Bringing back the four-time champion is a fantastic move for Foyt, and a fantastic move for the whole of the NTT IndyCar Series.
Bourdais put together a Cadillac DPi ride in IMSA to keep him busy with a team that currently is sitting second in the overall championship points, and spent this weekend driving the No. 82 Risi Competitione Ferrari at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, He’s still incredibly competitive.
A veteran of IndyCar, Sebastien Bourdais has four Champ Car titles to his name and 37 victories in the series. He’s been a staple on the grid since 2003. He’s tried his hand at Formula One and sports car racing, adding victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona to his resume.
So his absence from the series in 2020 came as a surprise to everyone, including Bourdais himself.
“I had no plans on stopping IndyCar at the end of 2019,” the French driver said in a recent press conference. “When the opportunity came talking to Larry [Foyt] in November and trying to put something together for early 2020, it was always with the mindset to hopefully build something and get another shot at a full-time ride in 2021.”
And if there’s something the A.J. Foyt Racing team needs right now, it’s that level of experience.
Normally a two-car and two-driver outfit, Foyt intended to run two to three cars each race with a total of four drivers: Charlie Kimball full time in the No. 4; Dalton Kellett, Bourdais, and Tony Kanaan in the No. 14; and Kellett in the No. 41 for the Indy 500.
After losing their longtime ABC Supply sponsorship, Foyt needed to try out another strategy to be competitive, and securing a revolving door of talent looked to be a promising way to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
The team’s best finish is a ninth place at Gateway with Kanaan. Other than that, their cars are more likely to finish 13th or lower. The organization needs someone to put a little pep in its step—and who better than Bourdais?
“We know Sebastien can get the job done,” Larry Foyt said of signing the French champion. “This is the toughest IndyCar field I think I’ve seen…It’s so tough and so tight. We just have to work together, have to work smart. I think by doing that we’re going to be successful, I’m pretty sure of that.”
Sebastien Bourdais is confident that he’ll be able to work with the A.J. Foyt Racing crew to put together something meaningful, but he has no illusions about the challenges that will face him in the near future:
“Definitely the goal going into the Indy [Harvest] GP is to start the relationship, get a race weekend under our belt, get that program underway,” he explained. “We’ll see which side of the performance we land on. Hopefully it’s on the competitive side. If it’s not, then we’ll just have to dig deeper and keep trying to put things together and come up with something better.
“Really we don’t really know where we’re going to be. We’re ready to face those obstacles. The goal is to do the best we can.”
It’s a smart way to approach the difficult task of essentially helping build a team from the ground up, and it suggests that Bourdais is willing and able to put in the work. While other drivers certainly want to help their team achieve the best possible results, truly understanding what’s wrong and figuring out a plan to fix it is not something every driver is excellent at.
But Sebastien Bourdais knows what it takes to not only problem-solve, but win races and also bring home championships. And while we likely won’t see a massive leap in performance for the A.J. Foyt Racing No. 14 car at the Indy Harvest GP in Indianapolis, we’re on the cusp of watching the team’s rise up through the IndyCar field in 2021.
The next race on the 2020 IndyCar schedule is the 2020 IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix Race 1 on Oct. 2 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA.