Things haven’t been all that hunky-dory over in the A.J. Foyt Racing camp for the past few years. The IndyCar team has chronically struggled with performance, slipping from the midfield to the rear of the grid. Paired with the loss of its longtime title sponsor ABC Supply and its revolving door of drivers, 2020 promised to be a difficult one. But now that the team has signed Sebastien Bourdais as a full-time driver for 2021 with his duties starting as soon as the next race, the team might just have a shot at revitalization.
Bourdais has an impressive resume that isn’t exclusive to open-wheel racing. Yes, he has won 37 races in American open-wheel series along with four consecutive Champ Car championships, but he’s also a champion at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a driver who knows how to make his equipment work for him.
Larry Foyt, who owns the team, agreed:
What I’ve been impressed by is what he did even going to smaller teams. I think he brought a lot to those teams and helped them.
I think we saw that even in testing, that he’s very good at knowing what he wants out of the race car. His feedback was exceptional. The engineers were really impressed. It just seemed to click really well.
When Bourdais moved from Champ Car to IndyCar, he was often behind the wheel of a fairly mediocre team, but no matter what equipment he was given, he’s been able to make the most of it. He may not be winning championships, but he’s certainly been able to guide a mid-tier team to wins and consistently strong finishes.
So it was something of a shock when Dale Coyne Racing dropped him after the 2019 season. No, he didn’t score any wins, but he also finished higher than his teammate in his championship standings. It was late enough that all Bourdais was able to scrounge up was a few races at Foyt, sharing a car with rookie Dalton Kellett and veteran Tony Kanaan.
Thankfully, Foyt saw the value in Bourdais. But that doesn’t mean the driver doesn’t understand what he’s facing:
There’s no doubt that obviously it’s been a bit of a trying season for a lot of people. But when you’re trying to revamp and put new strategies in place, you can’t even go test or you have very condensed weekends, it doesn’t really help the overall program to just make improvements, try and throw things at it. I think that’s definitely slowed the process and the progress of the team now quite a bit.
Although definitely we’ve seen some good things. Tony has been wheeling the car, putting it in good positions. Unfortunately the level of competition these days in IndyCar is so unforgiving that if you have the smallest thing that doesn’t go to plan, instantly you end up at the back.
We’ve seen good things. We’ve seen not-so-great things. I think there is definitely potential. Regardless of where we’re at right now, I do believe there is a really good opportunity for this team to keep growing and hopefully put it back towards the front of the field which is what we aim for and be working towards.
He later went on to note that high expectations can lead to disappointments and that he’d rather take the upcoming season at face value.
If there’s anyone that’s going to transform the struggling A.J. Foyt Racing team, it’s going to be Bourdais.