TORONTO — Sebastien Bourdais hadn't been on a podium in a long time, so he wanted to savor every minute of the celebration.
When handed his first trophy in open-wheel racing in almost six years, his party literally came to a crashing halt. The crystal for his second-place showing Saturday at Exhibition Place was not properly attached to the base, so as he accepted it and prepared to raise it over his head, it slipped to the ground, bounced once then shattered.
A look of confusion washed over the Frenchman's face before he gamely held up the empty base in triumph.
"It's OK, I've got plenty of trophies. It's not what makes your day," he said later.
Indeed, the finish was enough for Bourdais after so many years of struggles.
The four-time Champ Car champion is tied for seventh on the all-time wins list with 31 career victories. Bourdais left American open-wheel racing after his fourth title – it came in an eight-win 2007 season – and tried Formula One.
When F1 didn't work out, it took him until 2012 to put together a full-time ride to return to the U.S. and race in IndyCar. His deal, though, was with backmarker Dragon Racing and last season was a struggle before it began.
Dragon had an engine deal with Lotus, which was slow to provide motors and cost the team preseason testing time. Then it turned out the engine wasn't competitive, and Bourdais' fate was dependent on reliability and attrition.
Team owner Jay Penske had seen enough by May and filed suit to get out of the Lotus deal in favor of Chevrolet engines. Although the issue was resolved with Lotus before the Indianapolis 500, Chevy could only give the two-car team one engine for the rest of the season.
So Bourdais split the rest of the year with then-teammate Katherine Legge. He ran 11 of the 15 races with a best finish of fourth at Mid-Ohio.
Although the team was more prepared at the start of this season, it's been a difficult struggle for a driver so used to results.
Bourdais came into Toronto with a best starting spot of seventh, a best finish of 11th and three DNFs.
Penske, though, made widespread changes to both of his teams. Bourdais got a new engineer, and teammate Sebastian Saavedra received an overhauled pit crew.
The change for Bourdais seems to be clicking as he qualified second for Saturday's race, led 20 laps and finished second for his first podium since his final year in Champ Car. It was as a good as a win for the emotional Bourdais, who shared the podium with Target Chip Ganassi Racing heavyweights Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
"It's not (a finish) because of the top contenders dropping out or anything – we earned that second-place spot," Bourdais said. "We were the fast car. We fought with them all day. We stayed there. None of them had carnage or anything. We just happened to be fast and be able to fight with these guys.
"When you have a day like this, you finish between two Ganassi cars, I guess you did pretty good."