TORONTO — Sebastien Bourdais is trading in his helmet for his smarts this weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto.
The Frenchman is returning to the race track in a mentorship role for Dale Coyne Racing just two months after a crash during qualifying for the Indy 500.
Bourdais fractured his pelvis, a hip and two ribs when his car exploded into pieces and spun through Turn 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after hitting the wall at 227 miles per hour.
"If I see something then I’ll try and help and if I don’t then I’ll just shut up and see what happens," Bourdais said Thursday at a press conference ahead of the IndyCar race on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place.
"I’ve been around this place a lot but there’s only so much you can do from the outside so we’ll see how I can help them. It was important for me and the team to show up for the first time since the accident and just get to see everybody and try and contribute to the effort."
The two-time Honda Indy Toronto winner will help out team rookies Ed Jones and Esteban Gutierrez. Bourdais finished seventh in Toronto last year.
Bourdais, 38, was walking without crutches and says his progress is ahead of schedule. He’s also not ruling out a return this season.
"Unless I get in the car in testing and call it quits because I’m not ready, the plan is to do Watkins and Sonoma," Bourdais said of the final two races of the season. "That’s been my goal since really looking at the time frame and where we were going to be at the six weeks weight bearing, the eight weeks walking."
Seeing the four-time IndyCar series champion back around the track is a welcome sight, even for opponents such as Will Power. Power, who won the Honda Indy Toronto last year for the third time, stopped to chat and give his well wishes to Bourdais after the press conference.
"It’s great to see him back, can’t wait to see him in a car," he said.
Bourdais, who started the season with a win at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, said that he’s been starting to exercise again, which includes some cycling.
"It’s kind of a weird feeling because there’s some groups that are fairly equal side to side and one little thing that you feel very vulnerable," Bourdais said. "But it’s all coming back nice and slow but it’s going to be a bit of a process for sure."
Being in a coaching position is nothing new for Bourdais, but it’s never come at the expense of him being sidelined. He said he’s fine with the mentorship role even though it’s tough not to be in the car with his prior success in Toronto.
"I’ve tried to be a good patient, not trying to rush things and do anything stupid. But obviously now that I’m feeling not 100 per cent but not far from it either, it’s definitely kind of itching to get back into the car."