Bourdais, a four-time Champ Car title-winner, drove three races for Foyt last year, but became one of the earliest “free agents” to be confirmed in a fulltime seat for 2021, as iconic former driver AJ Foyt attempts to make his team race-winning contenders once more.
In his third race with the team, last year’s season finale at St. Petersburg, Bourdais scored fourth place, just behind new champion Scott Dixon.
Bourdais’ primary drive in 2020 was in the JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R, and he earned seven top-five finishes, including three podium finishes, resulting in fifth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title race. JDC-Miller has retained him for the four Michelin Endurance Cup rounds, where he will partner fulltimers Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval.
Bourdais is now confident he can reap rewards from both teams making progress.
Following Monday’s Sebring test of his Foyt #14 car – which is now prepped in Waller, TX with its sister #4 entry, as opposed to Foyt’s Indianapolis-based shop – Bourdais says the team has taken steps forward, even since the close of last season.
“We were focusing on shock and damper work, trying to bring the car to life,” he told Motorsport.com. “Justin Taylor has come onboard [as new race engineer] so we were also all trying to get comfortable together, see how we work, and it was a good.
“Obviously, Sebring is tricky in terms of when you set your times – the track grips up so quick and other things can influence your speed. There was a tail wind going into Turns 1 through 4, so we were fighting quite a bit of rear-end instability. But we were throwing stuff at it, trying to enervate the damper packages.
“We validated a couple of things that we learned from St. Pete, and checked off other stuff that the team has discovered in the three months since then, so it was very worthwhile. It’s important because the veteran drivers do not get a lot of test days.
“Honestly, I think we’re optimistic that we can really make some good progress and drive towards the front. I feel like I still have enough speed to help the Foyt team – I think St. Pete was a good reminder of that – and we can show what the team has worked for so hard, and together we can bring the Foyt name back to the front.”
Bourdais said he was “grateful for the opportunity” to combine a full IndyCar season with taking part in IMSA’s four most prestigious races, because “there are guys who would so want to do what I get to do. It is very satisfying, I’m pretty happy.”
Regarding the JDC-Miller Motorsports Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Bourdais says it is a “known quantity,” with the team having made strong progress throughout the 2020 season.
“We obviously don’t know what IMSA’s BoP [Balance of Performance] is going to look like trying to bring all the cars to the same laptimes,” he said, “but I think 2020 was a strong stepping stone. We learned a lot about the car and I really feel like Tristan [Vautier] and Loic [Duval] will have a fun year this season because the team knows its direction.
“Also, with Wayne Taylor Racing switching manufacturers [to Acura] I feel like Dallara’s preparation of our chassis is going to be really committed, it’s going to be more of an open book with the other Cadillac teams [Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing]. We’ll find out what we were doing wrong at times last year.”
Asked if he feels that he, Vautier and Duval are potential race winners in the 2021 IMSA season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, Bourdais responded: “As long as the BoP doesn’t change too much and doesn’t hand it to another manufacturer, then yes, I think we will be in the mix and will be plenty strong.
“The car was already pretty competitive in the July race at Daytona. Joao [Barbosa] had problems at the start of his stint and we lost 45-60sec but then he got better again, and then when I got in the car we made good progress because other guys had had to start saving fuel and we didn’t have to. We were really running them down and could put on a good show.
“So there’s plenty of signs that we will be good at Daytona and for the rest of the season. It’s really positive.”
Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images