Born in Le Mans, France, Sebastien Bourdais has enjoyed great success racing the American Champ Car series. Winning four successive titles, Bourdais has decided to return to Europe and join the Formula One circus from 2008, competing with the Red Bull owned Scuderia Toro Rosso team.
Born in 1979, Sebastien got into motorsport at an early age, partly due to the family home being so close to the famous Le Mans circuit where the 24 Hour race is held among others. By 1996 Sebastien was already in lower formulae, competing in Formula Renault and finishing second in the standings in his second season. He then spent two years in French Formula 3, finishing sixth in the first attempt and winning the championship in his second. In 2000, Bourdais progressed to F3000 and raced with the Prost Junior Team. However, the uncompetitive nature of the Prost car only led to one pole and one second place, so he moved to DAMS for 2001, winning a race at Silverstone. This caught the eye of the competitive Super Nova team and sure enough the French,an was signed for 2002. Sebastien took the title, beating Giorgio Pantano by two points.
In 2003, Bourdais moved to America to join the Newman-Haas Racing team in Champ Car. Bourdais had tested for Renault and Arrows in Formula One, but contract difficulties meant he couldn’t join either team. In his first race Bourdais took pole position, a feat only previously managed by 1992 Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell. The first win came at the fourth round at Brands Hatch, and victory repeated itself at the following round in Germany and later in the year at Cleveland. Four more podiums during the year led Sebastien to finish the 2003 season in fourth and Bourdais was retained by Newman-Haas for the following year.
After the initial success of his rookie year in Champ Car, many thought Bourdais wouldn’t be able to repeat his success, but 2004 was to be a season dominated by the Frenchman. Eight pole positions and seven wins brought Bourdais the title, beating his own team mate Bruno Junqueira by 28 points. Sebastien qualified no lower than third all year and claimed 10 podiums from 14 races, brining the total points tally up to 369.
2005 – 2006
Sebastien successfully defended his title in 2005, although his year wasn’t quite as dominating as previous. It was only a late charge that brought him enough points to win the championship. But never-the-less, 6 wins from 13 races is a very good ratio. The following season started better, and four consecutive wins at the sart of 2006 set Bourdais up well for a third title. However, a mid-season charge from rival AJ Allmendinger in his Forsythe car unsettled Sebastien and this allowed AJ’s team mate Paul Tracey to close up the points gap. By the time the fifth-from-last race took place in Denver, tensions were running high. Paul Tracey was leading, but Sebastien had closed in on the Forsythe. On the last lap Bourdais made his move for the lead but Tracey turned into the Newman-Haas car and both drivers retired on the spot. An altercation between the two drivers followed and because Allmendinger won the race, the championship table became very close at the top.
Sebastien kept his head though and he eventually won the title at Surfers Paradise, becoming the first driver to win three consecutive Champ Car titles since Ted Horn managed the feat in 1948.
2007 became Sebastien’s final championship victory (for now) in the Champ Car series. Earning 364 points from eight wins, the French driver made it four in a row, but decided to bow out of the series on a high. Mid-year Bourdais signed for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team to replace Vitantonio Liuzzi. Bourdais did test for the team in early 2007 before the Formula One season began, and again at Spa Francorchamps halfway through the year. Although the Toro Rosso isn’t quite as competitive as the Newman-Haas is in Champ Car, the team dramatically improved in the final few races of 2007. With backing from Red Bull and ex-Formula One driver Gerhard Berger as boss, 2008 is going to be very interesting. Sebastien will partner the very young, but very talented Sebastian Vettel, who spent half the year racing with Toro Rosso after Scott Speed left mid-season.