Four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Sebastien Bourdais, who won overall honors in sports car racing’s Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2014, has assessed this weekend’s twice-around-the-clock challenge at Daytona International Speedway realistically.
“There are multiple ways to lose this (24-hour) race and only one way to win it,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll make smart decisions and be there when it counts.”
Bourdais, who drives the No. 14 Chevrolet of AJ Foyt Racing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, isn’t sure what to make of his team’s chances to win this weekend’s 59th annual Daytona event. There are seven entries in the top Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class: Four Cadillacs, two Acuras and a Mazda. The Mazda was the fastest of the DPi’s last year and has shown similar speed, but an endurance pursuit isn’t all about pure lap times.
Wayne Taylor Racing won last year at Daytona and has won three of the past four events there, but team owner Wayne Taylor switched from Cadillac to Acura during the offseason and reworked his driver lineup to include Ricky Taylor and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves. How they mesh will be interesting to watch. The other Acura, fielded by Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian, includes drivers Dane Cameron, Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and AJ Allmendinger.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cadillac, which includes six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon, and the Action Express Racing twosome – one car has NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, the other features NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Simon Pagenaud and Jimmie Johnson -- also could contend for the overall title.
Bourdais again drives for the JDC-Miller Motorsports team, which finished third last year. Former INDYCAR SERIES driver Tristan Vautier is the new member alongside Loic Duval in an all-French driver lineup.
Vautier will be in the fourth position when the green flag drops at 3:40 p.m. (ET) Saturday (live, NBC).
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Bourdais said. “It’s going to be a tough one, but as we all know, it’s a 24-hour race, and a lot of things can happen. As long as we keep our noses clean, we should be in the hunt.”
Bourdais said Duval “put on a clinic” last year in the night portion of the race.
“We were very strong in the cold hours, but when the sun came out we were definitely lacking grip and struggling a lot more,” Bourdais said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to work on, to get the package right so when the conditions get tough, you’re good through the critical part.”
As for Bourdais’ NTT INDYCAR SERIES ride, the veteran said AJ Foyt Racing had a strong recent test at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, and the transition to new lead engineer Justin Taylor felt seamless.
Bourdais said the team built on the fourth-place finish at last year’s season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“We had a couple of (areas) we wanted to get some answers on to validate – or invalidate – stuff the guys worked hard to develop over the winter,” he said. “It was a productive day; it was all pretty positive.
“We just have to keep digging because we know how tough the competition is. There’s no taking it easy.”