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2013 Indy 500: Jourdain misses out on Bump Day

20 May 2013

Michel Jourdain Jr. is the sole driver to fail to make the 33-car grid for the 2013 Indianapolis 500, following the end of a week-long process of practice and qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jourdain was never happy with the set-up of the #17 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry despite huge efforts by the team to beat it into shape in time to allow the 36-year-old Mexican to make a Bump Day attempt to make the grid for next Sunday's race.

"It's so hard because the guys tried so hard, but we struggled a lot," admitted Jourdain ate the team started to pack up shortly before the 6pm end to the 2013 Indy 500 qualifying.

"Some days it was feeling a little better, but it was just never really there," he added. "This morning we tried James Jakes' set-up, and it was impossible to drive. And then we tried Graham's set-up, but it felt exactly the same and we couldn't drive it.

"It felt exactly the same. We changed whatever we had time to, but it just felt the same, and we couldn't drive it," he summed up.

Once his own Bump Day qualifying run was over - putting him into 26th place on the grid for next Sunday's race - team mate Graham Rahal even took time out from his own race set-up work to try out the #17 car on behalf of Jourdain, and confirmed that the car - most recently used as Mike Conway's chassis at Long Beach - simply didn't feel comfortable to drive at high speed.

"His same setup, even his steering wheel. It was impossible for him to make a difference - he just couldn't drive it. He got to 204 and said, 'I can't go any faster,'" said Jourdain.

"First day I was having so much fun. The car was easy to drive and so much fun to drive. Today it was just impossible," he continued. “The only thing we could do was something stupid and put the car into the wall and not make the race anyway, so there's no point in that. We know, for sure, that there is something wrong with the car, for sure. Something bent, broken, loose, bending. Something is broken in the middle of the car we have not seen." (Read the full post-qualifying interview with Jourdain.)

That left the driver unable to approach anything like the pace needed to bump his way into the already-full 33-car grid. Those drivers at risk of being knocked off the grid if Jourdain had managed to find something in the final minutes all waited tensely on pit lane until the clock ran out and the grid was finally frozen for next week's race.

Dale Coyne Racing's Pippa Mann and AJ Foyt's rookie Conor Daly were among those still on pit lane in their firesuits in case they had to jump into action. They couldn't take pre-emptive action without officially withdrawing their existing times, which they weren't about to risk until Jourdain looked like he might have something to offer.

The driver most at risk was Katherine Legge, who only arrived at IMS on Saturday for her seat fitting with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsport but who managed to just make the grid with a four-lap average time of 223.176mph. That put her in 33rd position on the grid and officially 'on the bubble' in Indy qualifying parlance, and on tenterhooks all afternoon waiting for Jourdain to set a flying lap time which might drop her out of the race just 24 hours after her surprise call-up at in the third Schmidt-Peterson car alongside regular drivers Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier.

"Relief!" said Legge as she saw Jourdain's crew finally packing up. "Obviously, it's not nice to do it in that manner; I feel bad for Michel. It's not nice for him to not have the opportunity.

"However, I am happy I am in the field, I'm not going to lie about that!" she added. "I'm going to sleep tonight for the first time in a few days. I feel really bad for Michel. I can't even think what's going through his head. I'm gutted for him."

Legge's time might have been the slowest of anyone on Bump Day, but considering how little time she'd had in the cockpit it was something of a minor miracle that she was able to set anything like a flying lap so soon in unfamiliar equipment.

"I had less than 20 when I went out to qualify, but apparently so the team tell me I was flat on Lap 4 of being in after not being in one of these cars for several months," she said. "I was aware there was a condensed schedule, so I had to get after it, and we have done a bit today.

"Our race car is really nice," she continued. "I feel really comfortable, ran in traffic a bit. We didn't have to trim out, so I have no idea what the car is like trimmed out. We'll have to go and do that, and there would have been another couple of miles an hour in it, so I think we were confident we were in the field."

Legge also spoke of how the last-minute Indy deal with Sam Schmidt had come about in the first place following her acrimonious and still-disputed split with Dragon Racing at the end of 2012.

"I was talking to him since 2011," she explained. "I put my name on his radar and bugged him for a while, and I think for this particular race I was working really hard since things blew up at the beginning of the year for me. I was working really hard to find a ride for the 500 at the very least, and possibly with other races."

In her time away from IndyCar Legge got to race the DeltaWing in last month's American Le Mans Series race at Laguna Seca in Montery, California, and the English driver said she hoped that she'd get more runs in the innovative prototype regardless of what may or may not happen for her in open wheel racing this season.

"I was trying to create opportunities for myself. I was very fortunate that I got to be the DeltaWing; that was very cool. I will do more races with them as well," she said. "I was racing at Laguna in the DeltaWing, and [then came] back on the red-eye to Indy. It was Sunday, Opening Day. And I was traipsing around the paddock talking to all the team owners and sponsor and everybody and, you know, trying to get myself an opportunity to get in the field. And I'm so grateful to Sam and Ric Peterson for giving me the opportunity."

Also happy and relieved to be in next weekend's race is Buddy Lazier, whose fledgling Lazier Partners team was only put together a couple of day before the official start to the Indy 500 programme of track activity and who wasn't able to get the car out on track until late in the week, giving him only a couple of days more preparation time than Legge did.

"It's really about the team - they did a great job," he said. "Very small amount of time. A lot of hard work, a lot of heart. We were sweating today. Temperature was going up, everybody was struggling."

Although he's an old hand at IndyCar - he's made 16 starts at Indianapolis and even won the Indy 500 in 1996 - it's Lazier's first time in the new generation Dallara chassis, the DW12, which made its series début along with the new-specification Honda and Chevrolet engines at the start of last season. Lazier admitted that it was taking some getting used to.

"It's a great car, but it's a huge learning curve," he said. "I just really enjoy being here. Big learning curve, but a lot of fun, too. We never were trying to qualify on the pole, so we've been doing a lot of three-quarter tank runs. We think we have a pretty good race car."

Lazier will start from 32nd place putting him in the middle of the back row, with Legge on one side of him and rookie Conor Daly on the other in the #41 AJ Foyt Racing car.

"It's nice to get it all done for once, and it's exciting to get it done early," said the GP3 Series regular, who has had the most eventful time of anyone this week. Daly crashed the car on Thursday and nearly flipped right over, lost out on Fast Friday when the team's efforts to get the car repaired were foiled by an early end to the day's practice session because of torrential rain, and was then thwarted in Pole Day qualifying on Saturday by engine problems.

"I have to thank the crew for all they've done," he said. "I think they had the car apart at least 15 times after the crash and the problems we had. We got the engine back about 8:30 last night, and they worked late getting it back in."

With one exception, the other six drivers qualifying on Bump Day were all series regulars - Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden was the fastest qualifier on Sunday followed by RLL's Graham Rahal, Dragon's Sebastian Saavedra, Schmidt-Peterson rookie Tristan Vautier and Dale Coyne Racing's Ana Beatriz. The odd one out is Beatriz' Indy team mate Pippa Mann, who qualified in 30th position.

"This was a nice, clean run," the English driver said after her qualifying effort. "We almost had four really nice clean laps. The wind must have picked up. On my last lap, I got rammed hard into the rev limiter, and we lost a lot of speed. When that happened, it cost us a mile per hour.

"We could get a little more if we needed to," Mann added. "Overall, I'm pleased with the run. We have gotten a lot done. I cannot thank Dale Coyne and Cyclops Gear enough for this opportunity. But I'm happy right now, much less stressed than I was yesterday [Saturday]!"

With Mann making the grid alongside Beatriz, Legge and KV Racing Technology's Simona De Silvestro, it equals the record for the most number of female drivers starting the Indianapolis 500 in its history. The record was set in 2011 when Beatriz, De Silvestro, Mann were joined for the green flag by former series regular Danica Patrick.

See the full starting grid and qualifying times for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and pictures from all of the qualifying and practice sessions.


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