Dirk Mueller believes Sebastien Bourdais is the “next best thing” to Joey Hand, as the Frenchman is set for a surprise appearance in the No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT this weekend at Long Beach.
Bourdais, the team’s regular endurance driver, has taken Hand’s seat due to a flu-like illness for the Californian, who has been ruled out of the third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
While no stranger to the FCGR squad, Bourdais will be making his first street circuit start in the Multimatic-built Ford, while also pulling double duty between his NTT IndyCar Series commitments this weekend.
“Seb is a good sub,” Mueller told Sportscar365. “He’s done such an awesome job over the last three years.
“He is really, really good and I don’t need to speak about his ability.
“It was the next best thing in coming in for Joey.”
Mueller said it was a “big bummer” to hear the news that Hand would be missing the event, which breaks a 38 consecutive-race streak with the two as co-drivers that dates back to the start of the Ford GT program in 2016.
“I landed on Tuesday and late Tuesday night, Joey and I talked,” Mueller said. “I knew he was not in a good health condition.
“I’m really sorry for Joey. I cannot express how sorry I am. It’s kind of his home race; he was on pole here last year and friends and family were supposed to come out and they’ve had to cancel the trip.
“At the same time we now get separated [from the points perspective], which I hate, [although] not knowing what the championship season will bring.”
With Bourdais’ busy schedule this weekend, Mueller said he expects to be doing the majority of the driving in the No. 66 Ford, although admitted they haven’t fully figured out a plan yet.
“At this stage we still need to figure out how it’s going to work with the scheduling,” he said.
“I’ll probably do more driving duties more than usual just because he won’t be available at times or running back from [IndyCar] meetings.
“Seb gets his mind around it and he’s going to be on the game and I’m looking forward to it.
“But I’m really sad for Joey that he’s not here.”
Bourdais Looking Forward to “Super Sub” Status
Bourdais, who has claimed three Champ Car victories on the streets of Long Beach, said he’s looking forward to experiencing the Ford GT around the concrete canyons, although has also kept Hand in his thoughts.
“Well first and foremost, I hope Joey gets well soon,” he said.
“The team obviously needs him. I am going to be a bit of a super sub here this weekend in IndyCar and the Ford GT, but I am looking forward to it.
“This is a great place, but I have never driven anything else around here other than an Indy car or Champ Car. But you are never too old to learn new things.”
IMSA News Wire contributed to this report