St. Pete driver on list of favorite to win Grand Prix - WFLA News Channel 8

St. Pete driver on list of favorites to win Grand Prix

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ST PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) -

Downtown St. Petersburg started turning into one of the World's fastest tracks on Friday as crews put up the ceremonial first barricade for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"It's going to be 110 laps ... it's going to be a hell of a day," said driver Sébastien Bourdais as crews worked behind him.

Bourdais, a native of France, now calls St. Pete home and is one of the favorites to win this years Grand Prix. He drives the No. 7 car for Dragon Racing.

"I've been used to running at the front in Champ Cars for winning many years. After winning the championship a few times - it's great to be back in that position in Indy Car now where it's a unified series and you've got very, very strong competition," Bourdais said. "So we finished the year very strong last year in terms of performance but didn't quite put the results together so I'm really happy we're back in the position where we feel like we can have an impact on the result."

This year will mark the third consecutive season the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will serve as the opening race for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Organizers of the event will unveil a new monument on race week dedicated to Dan Wheldon, who died in a crash at a Las Vegas speedway in 2011. Work will begin on it in a couple of weeks.

"It will consist of a memorial for Dan himself that will face Dan Wheldon Way," said Tim Ramsberger, President of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "It'll have bricks representing the Indianapolis Speedway, as well as cobblestone representing his hometown in England."

The monument will sit at Turn 10, where Wheldon took first place in the very first St. Pete Grand Prix in 2005. There will also be a memorial including plaques of all past winners. It's an emotional symbol, especially for those who know Wheldon's wife and children.

"That's, for me, the tough part: Knowing those kids are without a father and Susie's without a husband," Ramsberger said.

It will take about 250 construction workers about 35 days to build the track for the Grand Prix.

"It's just like most other street courses ... kind of bumpy, narrow, unforgiving," Bourdais said. "Every time you make a little mistake, it's got big consequences so you've just got to be on the money."

It takes all this to build the track:

  • More than 20,000 feet of steel-reinforced concrete blocks
  • 44,000 feet of chain-link fencing
  • more 12,000 tires

"St. Petersburg is like a lot of cities we do. It's a temporary race track in a downtown city," said Jim Tario, who oversees Track Operations. "So we just try to minimize as much as we can the impact on the city...try to get in quick - get out quick - but build a safe race track."

Tickets to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are available now at gpstpete.com or by phone at 877-283-5385.

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