Sebastien Bourdais is all smiles at the post-race press conference
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Auto racing historians will tell you that comparing top drivers from one era to another is a futile task. It’s difficult because each driver competed under different circumstances with different equipment against different competition.
However, with four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais finishing his five-year career in Champ Car with yet another victory today—he leaves tonight for Barcelona for testing in preparation of next season’s Formula One competition—there’s no argument that Bourdais leaves a distinguished legacy at Champ Car that compares with predecessors such as A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.
“I don't know if I have any influence over what people are going to remember or keep in memories over what I have done,” Bourdais says. “All I hope is that people remember that we went after it and we gave it our very best, and we haven't won these four championships just kind of waiting for the points to accumulate and just being (consistent). We obviously tried to put on the best show we could, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
“Now, about the legacy, obviously I'm not too comfortable talking about myself. I never really liked that. I think to call it a legacy, I don't know if it's really me, but obviously when you've done things that have never been done before, people give it different (importance), and for me it's just been kind of, like I said, a race‑by‑race thing, and then it transformed into one championship and then another and then another and then another.
“So I never really looked back yet, and I think it's probably going to take me a few years before I do that. But right now I'm just kind of looking forward, and I think you only realize the importance of what you've done in the past after a few years because you need a little bit of time to just kind of get everything ordered.”
How does Bourdais statistically stack up against the best of the best?
For one, he is the first man in the history of American open-wheel racing’s top division to win the national title four consecutive times. Whether it was AAA, USAC, CART or Champ Car, no driver in history won four straight.
Foyt won seven championship division titles, including 1979 when USAC ran a separate series from CART. Foyt’s best run of titles came between 1960 and 1964 when he won four out of five. Only Rodger Ward’s title year of 1962 prevented Foyt from winning five straight.
Andretti won the championship four times. He won three between 1965 and 1969 before deciding, like Bourdais, to concentrate on F1, where he would capture the world championship in 1978. Then he returned to CART, where he won the title convincingly in 1984.
After finishing a very respectable fourth in his rookie season of 2003 in which he won three races and five poles, Bourdais dominated the next three seasons. He won half of the 14 races in 2004 (along with eight poles) to capture his first title. He followed with six victories and five poles to win title No. 2 in 2005. He opened the 2006 season with four straight victories and added three more to his tally to win a third consecutive championship. He also won seven poles en route to that title.
For 2007, he started slow as his team adapted to Champ Car’s new DP01 chassis. But the slow start was only temporary, and by the second race of the season, Long Beach, he was back on top. Victories followed at Houston, Portland, Edmonton, Elkhart Lake, Zolder and Surfers Paradise, where he clinched title No. 4. By that time, he had amassed an amazing 30 victories in 72 starts. In fact, Bourdais wound up with his best Champ Car season ever in terms of victories when he scored his eighth of the year in the Mexico City season finale, moving him into a tie for fourth place on the all-time list for wins in a single season. He is also tied with Al Unser Jr. and Paul Tracy for sixth on the all-time Champ Car win list with 31 career victories.
Bourdais’ title quests also have been aided by his penchant for recording podium and top-five finishes and a few DNFs. Bourdais was on the podium seven times in 2003 (with two other top-five finishes); 10 times in 2004 (along with one other top-five finish); seven times in 2005 (with four other top fives); 11 in 2006; and nine times (with one other top five) in 2007. In all, Bourdais has been on the podium in more than 60 percent of his Champ Car career starts.
Another impressive statistic is in the category of laps led. Bourdais has done equally well here. Including today’s final race in Mexico, Bourdais had been P1 a grand total of 2,103 out of a possible 6,905.
Bourdais also has been particularly adept at winning virtually everywhere he has raced. The only tracks where victory eluded him were first-year circuits at Las Vegas, Mont-Tremblant and Assen—all in 2007. He also has been successful on every type of circuit—scoring victories on ovals, permanent road circuits, street circuits and airport circuits. Quick to give credit to his team, Bourdais recently reflected on his latest championship.
“Well, it's been quite above average, I should say,” Bourdais quipped. “It's just the success of an awesome group of people within that McDonald's team. We started that relationship back in 2003. All the results really speak for themselves. It's how good these guys are. And they proved it (at Surfers Paradise) again when we came in the pits in third and came out first. From there, it was in my hands to try to make it stick.
“What a fun five years it's been. I'm surely not going to forget about it any time soon.”
No matter what the historians debate about his place in open-wheel racing history, one thing is certain: Sebastien Bourdais will not be forgotten any time soon.
Sebastien Bourdais’ Position in All-Time Statistics