Bourdais snatches IndyCar victory on streets of St. Pete

  • Bourdais snatches IndyCar victory on streets of St. Pete

Bourdais snatches IndyCar victory on streets of St. Pete

"It would've been a fairytale to finish that one out, but sometimes it's not meant to be".

Wickens led a race-high 69 of the 110 laps but finished 18th.

"It's insane today we are sitting here as teammates, as professional race vehicle drivers in IndyCar", Wickens said.

"We pulled it together, we were going to get a podium - which was awesome - and I was really happy for Robert, and [I am] kind of heartbroken for him".

Wickens was a star in touring cars in Germany but defected to IndyCar this year at the coaxing of good friend James Hinchcliffe. Although he was one of seven rookies in the 24-car field Sunday, he is 28 and a proven victor. Another fast rookie was Canadian Robert Wickens in the second Schmidt Peterson livery.

Bourdais slid by both cars from third for the victory. The racing hasn't been great at Phoenix since it returned to the schedule, but there's optimism that the new auto will make passing far easier. "Once I knew what the injuries were and there were not going to be any lasting events, then it was like fast-forward and get back on the horse and get back to what I do, get back to my life". I told myself that if Alex wants to go there, go for it, but he's not going to make the corner. I went very late on the brakes, and he tried to stay beside me, but the track is so dirty on the inside he couldn't keep the line and just slid into me.

"We didn't have the fastest vehicle today but we had consistency and we pulled it together", the native of Le Mans, France, said.

When Bourdais was seriously injured in a crash at Indianapolis last May while preparing for the Indy 500, there was initial fear that he would miss the rest of the season, let alone possibly never race again.

Bourdais said he never considered not returning to racing. I think you get the questions from people: Is he going to be the same?

"I guess I'm glad I did continue!"

The first race of the IndyCar season is off to a messy start on the streets of St. Petersburg. The team this year has been bolstered by the ownership group of Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan, which reunited Bourdais with his former bosses.

Rossi was not penalized for the contact and believed he had done nothing wrong.

"He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner".

"It's been bumpy, it's been tough, it's been everything in between, but I've gotten a lot of support from the CEO to my family to everybody on board".

"I thought I gave him enough space that actually would have held P1". I would have been disappointed in Rossi if he didn't go for it. Rossi went for it, ultimately, they banged wheel to wheel, and he hip-checked Wickens out of the way.

While Hinchliffe is an IndyCar veteran, Wickens comes to the American series after a successful career racing in Europe. But Rossi was adamant that he didn't err and was justified in racing for the win.

Coyne also praised his second driver, Zachary Claman De Melo who had made only one previous IndyCar start, but who avoided trouble and came home 17, just one lap down.

Putting the incident aside, St Petersburg was a welcome reminder that IndyCar is one of the most unpredictable racing series' out there and the performance of Wickens this weekend showed that no prediction is safe and any of the drivers, rookie or not, have the potential to fight at the sharp end and challenge for the title. Sunday saw a race-record 366 on-track passes, breaking the mark of 323 set in 2008.

With the stop-start nature of the race, the Canadian did everything he needed to in keeping himself at the sharp end and kept his head as he edged closer to a potential debut victory and led the field away with two laps to go.

The slot was, indeed, not very clean.

There were two spins on the opening lap, and IndyCar reviewed three incidents in the first nine laps of Sunday's race.

Will Power spun as he raced Wickens for the lead in the first turn of the first lap. Power was able to recover, and change his rear wing after the yellow came out just a few laps into race due to a spinning Tony Kanaan.

2013 St. Pete victor James Hinchcliffe was fourth, and Hunter-Reay, after going to the back of the pack rounded out the top five.

Cars of the Pirelli World Challenge GTS race around Turn 10 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Brazilian joked his command might be directed only at the Penske drivers to start their engines.