It's been almost seven years since Sebastien Bourdais closed the 2007 season with victories at Surfers Paradise, Australia and Mexico City to secure his fourth consecutive Champ Car World Series title for Newman/Haas Racing. But on Sunday morning it seemed just like old times, as the Frenchman dominated from pole position to claim his first win in the unified Verizon IndyCar Series championship in Toronto.
"I got a big smile across my face and I can't seem to get rid of it, it's just really cool," he said afterwards. "The whole race I was stressed out, it felt too easy, it felt like it was way too much under control and it felt like it was way going to go wrong at some point.
"From green to chequered flag, it doesn't quite get much better than that," he added. "It's just really sweet. When you got a good scenario like yesterday, and you start from the front like this, it's easier, especially in Toronto."
Bourdais previously won in Toronto back in 2004 when he was on his way to the first of his four Champ Car titles, and he agreed that it had made a difference being back on familiar ground this weekend.
"It's definitely one of the tracks where I've been the most consistent since my return to IndyCar to start my career," he said, noting that his first outing here in 2003 hadn't been such a great success. "I came back in '04 after looking at a bunch of video and camera data and stuff and I figured something out, and I got to point out what was the track, what was the car, and where you had to focus on to make the car good and quick around the track.
"It's definitely a place that I've been putting on good, very strong performances and to be back on the top step in the way we have done it today pretty much like the 'good ol' days' - it's very special."
The worst moment for Bourdais this weekend came on Saturday evening, when persistent rain had forced a cancellation of the planned first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader. It left Bourdais fearing that his hard won pole position - his first since his return to US open wheel competition - would go entirely to waste.
"The only one that would have been cancelled was the one I was on pole, which is like, you gotta be kidding me!" he said. "So when it was announced that it was going to be two short races [on Sunday] I was back to, okay, all right, just going to have to sleep and get at it.
"I didn't think about anything," he explained about his feelings on Sunday morning ahead of the race. "I just knew we had a good car, and we were going to start in the front, it was going to be a rolling start and hopefully we could hang on to the lead and that's exactly what happened out there pretty much."
Not that he'd taken anything for granted: "It only takes a couple of yellows to shuffle things around and guys get out of sync and all of the sudden they're cycled to the front and you're behind and the race is over," he pointed out.
"That was the only scare I had, but toward the end, once everybody was good on fuel, we still got to save quite a bit because we pitted earlier than most, so I was afraid of somebody coming through the field charging hard, running wide open," he continued. "The one thing you don't want at the end of the race is a yellow flag where it bunches everybody up and it's chaos again, so I was happy with the 3-4 second lead."
Bourdais decided to return to the US after stints in Formula One and sportscars, and he was still competing in the latter in 2011 when he decided to split his year with a partial season at Dale Coyne Racing with a road/street course-only season. That whetted his appetite for a full-time involvement the following year with Dragon Racing, but problems with engine supplier Lotus (later replaced by Chevrolet) made for a bumpy start.
But it's been this season, with a move to the more established KV Racing Technology team, that really seems to have brought together all the elements that Bourdais needs to get back to the sort of winning form he enjoyed in Champ Car from 2004 to 2007 with Newman/Haas Racing.
"It's working out, you know - everybody is really, really pumped up," he said of the new feeling this year at KV. "All of us at Newman/Haas, we probably realised how special this time was when it was behind us, and it's always like that. Now when you reflect on everything that happened, it was very, very, very extraordinary.
"The way we have done it today is very special and shows that I still got it, and I'm here to stay," he added. "Hopefully we can get on a roll [but] there is not going to be any domination like we had from '04 to '07 just because there are too many good drivers, too many strong cars, the way the racing is these days ... You can't have the consistency [like we used to] but we can still be contenders. To win a championship in a series, you have to finish five almost every weekend, which on paper can look easy but it's not."
While he looks back to his Champ Car days with great fondness, it's clear that he has very different feelings about his ill-fated time in Formula One with Toro Rosso alongside Sebastian Vettel from 2008 until midway through 2009, when he exited the team in a dispute over performance and results.
"F1 was miserable, but that's what happens," he shrugged. "It's been quite a journey, but that's the career of a race car driver. You're only as good as your car is and you get some ups and downs and you gotta fight through and hope you keep the motivation and that you keep challenging yourself, so you stay on top of yourself and kind of keep the passion.
"As long as the passion is here, you know, you just make it up and it's a perfect example today," he summed up, the big smile still on his face with the satisfaction of being back in victory lane where he belongs.