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IndyCar Season Preview: Sebastien Bourdais

Photo credit: David Merrett (CC-BY)

#7 Lotus Cars Dallara-Lotus, Dragon Racing

Born: February 28, 1979

Home: Le Mans, France

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Bourdais returned to American open-wheel for the first time since winning the 2007 Champ Car title, signing with Dale Coyne Racing to run the road and street course rounds of the IndyCar championship. He scored a best finish of sixth place on four separate occasions (Toronto, Edmonton, Infineon, Motegi).

2011 LOWLIGHTS: After a practice accident, Bourdais was forced to sit out of the season-opening round at St. Petersburg. He was also unable to return to the Indianapolis 500 after a rumored deal with former CART owner Pat Patrick never came through.

SEASON OUTLOOK: First things first – give Jay Penske some serious credit for taking a team on the brink of dissolution and landing two of the best available free agents on the market, Bourdais and Katherine Legge. What’s especially impressive is that the other offers on the table came from Dale Coyne, which likely would have seen Bourdais and Justin Wilson partner up, and World Endurance Championship manufacturer Peugeot, which makes some of the best Le Mans prototypes in the world. In fact, it’s safe to say that Penske’s offer may have been the least compelling of the three Bourdais was weighing.

That being said, however, it was the most solid, as Coyne suffered offseason setbacks that put him a month behind the game, and Peugeot eventually dropped their sports car program entirely. Bourdais’ driving talent is unquestioned; he is tied with Paul Tracy at 31 wins for the title of winningest active American open-wheel driver, and he scored a series of strong finishes in Coyne’s mid-pack level cars. He’ll do plenty to legitimize Dragon Racing, though it may be too soon to expect a top 10 championship run (especially as he’ll skip the Milwaukee round to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans for a new team).

– Chris Leone

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