Bourdais won the final four Champ Car titles, 2004-’07, before Indy car racing reunified in 2008, and several victories since then have brought him to a total of 37 – sixth in the all-time standings.
Last Saturday, the 42-year-old Frenchman also added to his roster of sportscar triumphs – which already included two at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, one at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and one at Petit Le Mans – by winning the Twelve Hours of Sebring for a second time, in a JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac.
Loic Duval, Sebastien Bourdais, Tristan Vautier celebrate their Sebring 12hrs victory in the JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac.
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
On Tuesday, ROKiT, a business incubator with a portfolio of companies that includes mobile phones, WiFi deployment, beverages, 3D content production and distribution of movies and music, was confirmed as sponsoring the #14 entry that will this year be driven full-time by Bourdais, and which team founder and Indy car icon AJ Foyt made famous.
Kendrick, who co-founded ROKiT with John-Paul DeJoria, had been talking with AJ Foyt Racing president Larry Foyt for seven years, but the decision to hire Bourdais – and the apparent progress of the Waller, TX.-based squad – is what persuaded him to enter into a partnership.
“It’s about brand recognition. It does marvelous things for the brand… and it is very important that the ROKiT brand is out there… So that was the first reason.
“And having that driver line-up for us was very, very important. I know who [Sebastien] is, obviously, and I know his capabilities. So that clinched it for me. And Larry hasn’t been completely truthful with you: he’s done a lot more with the car this year than he’s letting on! So there’s that.
“And then there’s the [livery] design. I could have stolen his design and put it in another championship, I suppose, but I’m not that sort of guy. Or maybe I am!”
Regarding ROKiT’s activation around events, Kendrick said: “We want to bring a lot of people to the races. We have a lot of dealers in our drinks division, a lot of distributors. We actually did the opposite during COVID: instead of getting rid of people, we actually went out and employed 200 people, just in California, and we’re doing the same in Florida and New York, to sell our drinks.
“But it’s really ROKiT Cities (providing WiFi networks in cities) that is our big one, our goal. We already have 116 countries around the world that want to WiFi the city, so you can walk or drive around a city and have constant connectivity over WiFi, not cellular. So this is perfect for us. We’ve done one little test in Austin, TX., and this [partnership with AJ Foyt Racing] is a means for us to bring dignitaries, mayors, governors, and say, ‘Look at what we’re doing.’ And hopefully we can persuade enough of them to get a franchise for getting WiFi in the city.”
Larry Foyt backed up his new partner’s optimism.
“We feel like the whole engineering program is in a good spot,” he said, echoing his and team technical director Mike Colliver’s comments after seeing Bourdais top the test at Barber Motorsports Park last month, and Bourdais’ own comments earlier this month. “They’ve all come together, everyone’s pulling in the same direction.
Photo by: A.J. Foyt Racing
“With COVID and things slowing down, we were able to catch up. Once the season starts in IndyCar, you’re so busy and so with the longer winter we had, we were really able to get to the bottom of engineering programs and initiatives that we’d started a couple of years ago. We were gathering all this data but didn’t really have the manpower to decipher it all and fully understand it. But the group we have together now is doing a really good job of that.
“And then obviously having Sebastien come in… and from the technical side he can really help too: His feedback is amazing. He’s always thinking about winning races and that’s shown in the testing. We’re not out there trying to do qualifying runs: the car’s just been quick and Seb’s been quick, so everything feels really good right now…
“We really feel like we can have our best season in many, many years.”
Foyt, who admitted that so far the deal is just for one year, says he and Kendrick have not set specific targets regarding what should be achieved in order for the partnership to continue into 2022 and/or beyond.
“I don’t think we’ve promised anything, other than the fact that we’re headed up to the right end of the grid,” he said. “We feel there are certainly some tracks where we have a chance to be very good, especially after some of the winter testing. And we know Seb is very good particularly on street courses, and we had a great test on [a road course] at Barber. So I feel like there are some places where we can be extremely competitive as long as we do all the right things as a team.
“It’s tough in IndyCar as I say, but we’ve just been trying to show JK we’re headed in the right direction, we’re not cutting any corners. I don’t think we’ve said, ‘We have to win,’ – but we want to be able to win and put ourselves in a position to win. And I definitely feel like we’re going to have some podiums with Seb and hopefully get that win. So that’s the goal.”
Kendrick added: “Larry did promise me one thing. That if we get some good results, he’d shave off his beard and look normal!” To which Foyt responded: “Yeah, that is a promise. If we win, I’ll never wear a beard again, I promise you that.”
Larry Foyt, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet.
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images