Sebastien Bourdais was born on 28th February 1979 in Le Mans, the cradle of endurance auto racing and Queen of the mythic 24 hour race since 1923. Sebastien's own cradle was probably in the form of a bucket seat: Plunged into the auto-racing environment through his native region and through his father Patrick, who had his own success on four wheels (an amateur, Patrick kept the flame of competition alive through club-racing and especially endurance? he took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1993 and 2006), Sebastien received his first bucket-seat, behind the wheel of a Kart, in 1989.
"I remember like it was yesterday the day I gave him his first Kart," Patrick recalls, "It was his birthday, on the Alain Prost circuit at Le Mans. I sensed that he was truly gifted from his first few laps, since he was immediately within the best lowest times. His trajectories were very fluid and he already had a good analysis of his machine."
The results were not long in coming and did not make a liar out of Patrick: Champion of the Maine Bretagne league in 1991, 4th in the France Cadets Championship in 1992, Sebastien was climbing steadily the steps of the national hierarchy.
In 1995 Sebastien had the first start of his career in a single-seater championship, Formula Campus. "During a race at Dijon in Campus, he put a second between him and his competitors on a track that was wet, then dry," Patrick recalls, "Yet, he had never driven on that track before! He won both races starting 16th and 12th. That day I understood that he could have a career in auto racing. And when he took the Formula 3 title, we started thinking about Formula 1."
The following year, Sebastien took part in the Formula Renault French Championship, where he placed seventh. That year also saw him dominate the 24 hours of Le Mans in Karting. 2nd in the same single-seater championship in 1997, he wrapped up his first F3 chapter in France (1998) with the trophy for best newcomer, and to the tune of five wins. The adage, "a year to learn, a year to win," held true with the 1999 title, the highest rated in the national territory. Sebastien also wrote the first chapters of his career in endurance racing when he took part in the first "around the clock" race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The following year, Henri Pescarolo ran his first car under his own colors. For the four-time winner of the race, it is unthinkable to build a team without a young hope; and Sebastien was that hope, and he did not disappoint, with a fourth-place finish under the checkered flag, behind the untouchable Audis.
At the turn of the millennium, Sebastien logically crossed the threshold into F3000, his first international championship. Finishing 9th the first year, 4th twelve months later, he rounded out his hit parade and his experience with fruitful appearances in LMS, ELMS, FIA GT and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then he concentrated on his favorite discipline ? single-seaters ? and F3000 in particular, where he became champion in 2002.
F1, or Almost
At the age of 24, Sebastien ? head of the class in the best single-seater finishing schools ? was ripe for the highest level of auto racing, Formula 1. Arrows was the first team to offer him an official driving contract, in 2003. But the Leafield team was in bankruptcy before the start of the regular season and Sebastien, caught short, had to turn towards new horizons. The time is counted, the F1 teams defined their line-up for the coming season and Sebastien took his pilgrim's staff, and headed off after the American dream.
The American dream came completely true. By finding the confidence of the best team in the Champ Car championship, Newman/Haas, Sebastien gave free rein to his imagination. To the point of erasing from the books the oldest records in the discipline. By taking his 4th title in a row in 2007, Sebastien became the first driver in the History of the discipline to monopolize the titles 4 years in a row.
Sebastien bet on 31 for his final appearance in Champ Car, on 11th November, 2007 in Mexico: the four-time champion in the discipline had his 31st win (in 73 starts) for a winning percentage of 42.4%. In Mexico City, Bourdais moved up to the level of Paul Tracy and Al Unser Jr. to become the 6th winningest driver in Champ Car history. Bourdais holds the record for number of wins in one season: 8 wins in 2007. The French driver joins some glorious drivers in the Champ Car record-books: Andretti (1991), Al Unser Jr. (1994). Sebastien’s 31 victories go along with his 31 pole positions. His win rate is unequaled and on a quantitative level, Sebastien ranks 6th behind Mario Andretti (67), A.J. Foyt (53), Bobby Unser (49), Rick Mears (40) and Michael Andretti (32). He led 2,013 race laps out of a possible 6,905.
Sebastien’s career in the States did not stop with Champ Car. Victor of a leg in the prestigious IROC competition gathering the best up-and-coming drivers in North America, Sebastien also beefed up his string of successes with a remarkable participation in the Indianapolis 500.
Sebastien Bourdais's successes in single-seaters speak for themselves. The only adventure that could complete his career and to which he naturally aspired, was Formula 1, the Mount Olympus of auto racing. After several fruitless contacts, the positive response came from a decisive meeting. "In 2006 I had little hope left and I was ready to drop it. Then I got a phone call and a week later I was in a Toro Rosso!"
The call came from Nicolas Todt, the kingpin in Sebastien’s arrival in F1. "He came to see me before the 2006 USA GP and told me he had given himself a challenge, and that was to get a French driver in F1. He told me that he thought I was the only person able to do it correctly."
After a couple of test sessions, Jerez, Paul Ricard and Spa, the management and Gerhard Berger first, were convinced Sebastien was the right driver to put in the car, alongside the young and promising German Sebastian Vettel. For the start of the 2008 season, with a year old car, Sebastien shone straight away in his first race. On Melbourne’s tough track, fourth a couple of laps from the end, he even resisted Fernando Alonso and Heiki Kovalainen’s pressure, and only lost that finish due to a mechanical failure on the second to last lap! The rest of the season proved more complicated, when the new car was introduced after six races. Sebastien had the worst time to get the very fast TR3 to fit his driving style, but an aerodynamic update toward the end of the season was going to help him dramatically and Sebastien would qualify six times in the top ten in the last seven races, including a great third position on the grid in Monza. Thanks to his pace, Toro Rosso decided to keep Sebastien for 2009, but the car proved to be quite slow and difficult, and although he managed to score in Melbourne and Monaco, the team decided to put the young Spanish driver Jaime Algersuari in the car, in order to prepare the 2010 season.
Bouncing back after the F1 chapter, Sebastien went on to score two wins in the last three races in Superleague Formula .
In parallel to his open-wheel carrier, Sebastien kept racing in endurance and enter the 24h of Le Mans every time he could. That led him to two second place finishes in 2007 and 2009, with the Peugeot team. This year Sebastien will again race with Peugeot, entering the 12h of Sebring, the 1000km of Spa, and hopes to finally win one of the most famous classic in the world : Le Mans.