Golf Cart Not Fast Enough for IndyCar Driver Sebastien Bourdais
While performing the pre-race ’track walk’ ritual at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of the upcoming Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Sebastien Bourdais couldn’t resist his need for speed.
At some point before every race, IndyCar drivers and race-team staff can take a “track walk” in order to inspect the course. Drivers identify the line they want to take, analyze tricky corners, gauge the condition of the tarmac, and assess the safety of runoff areas.
Typically, as the term suggests, the track walk occurs on foot. But some venues allow drivers to use a golf cart instead, which many of them prefer—or they would, if golf carts weren’t so effing slow.
The track walk around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, in preparation for the upcoming Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, was scheduled for Wednesday evening—and golf carts were allowed. But as I’ve said, golf carts are slow, which is torture to a guy who regularly travels upwards of 225 miles per hour.
To rectify this, driver Sebastien Bourdais flipped up the seat cushion of his cart, fished around in the guts of the machine, and yanked out the governor—a device that limits the cart’s speed. To test it, Bourdais took the now-souped-up vehicle for a lap around Gasoline Alley, squealing around the corners before screeching to a halt. “Better!” he said.
With that, Bourdais, his engineer (my husband, Olivier Boisson), and I were off. Olivier took the wheel, allowing Bourdais to focus on inspecting the course. Perched in the rear-facing back seat, I clung to the side rail as we careened through the garages, hung a right, and charged down pit lane. Then we merged onto the course itself, blowing by several drivers on foot as we navigated the 14-turn circuit. The cart shook and shuddered around each curve. Occasionally, Bourdais yanked the wheel to get closer to some feature or other—a seam in the pavement here, the gravel runoff there. We spotted Josef Newgarden, who recently claimed his first IndyCar series win at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, loafing around in a cart in the opposite direction, apparently inspecting the famed IMS oval rather than the road course. “You’re going the wrong way!” yelled Bourdais.
After two quick tours around the circuit, the second of which involved a brief battle with Helio Castroneves down the main straight (we won), we peeled into pit lane and roared back to the team’s garage. Things got interesting on our approach, when our smoking-hot brakes declined to engage. Olivier, hunched over the wheel, wrangled the cart to a stop with mere millimeters to spare. As the acrid smell of burning brake dust drifted into my nostrils, I thought to myself, “Maybe next time I’ll walk.”