Four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais has signed a two-year deal with KV Racing and appears set to become a perennial contender for the first time since his tenure in the Champ Car World Series.
Bourdais won four consecutive championships from 2004-2007 in the final years of the Champ Car promotion but has not enjoyed the same success in the IndyCar Series following the merger. He scored five top-10s in a partial schedule for Dale Coyne Racing in 2011 but largely struggled in 2012 in his full-season return for Dragon Racing.
The 2013 season started off much of the same but Bourdais has competed for podiums ever since Tom Brown became his chief engineer in July. Starting with the doubleheader at Toronto, Bourdais has led 39 laps, scored three podiums and four top-5s.
During that span, he has surged from 21st in the standings to 12th -- and now he takes that momentum to KV Racing, the team that just won the Indianapolis 500 in May.
"I want to thank Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and Sulli for this opportunity," Bourdais said in a team release. "The fact that we have an agreement with KVSH Racing so early, and that I have a two-year contract, means we have the opportunity to develop as a team. I am looking forward to meeting the crew and getting started with testing as soon as possible. I also want to thank (Dragon Racing owner Jay Penske) and all the guys at Dragon Racing for their support over the last two seasons. I wish them the best of luck in the future."
Bourdais will replace Kanaan in the KV Chevrolet after the Brazilian departs for Chip Ganassi Racing during the off-season. While Kanaan is a versatile driver, he has struggled at times on road and street courses this season. With those venues making up a bulk of the schedule, team officials may even see Bourdais, with his multiple street course series championships and Formula 1 experience as an upgrade.
"I am extremely pleased to announce that Sebastien Bourdais will be driving for our team for the next two years," Kalkhoven said. "Sebastien is a proven champion and we look forward to working with him to produce more championships."
In addition to his four CCWS championships, Bourdais is also the winner of 31 races in his Indy car career, tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy for eighth on the all-time wins list.
When Kannan announced his departure to Ganassi, KV Racing immediately offered the same deal they offered to the Brazilian -- one where he didn't have to bring sponsorship money -- to James Hinchcliffe but he decided that KV's "deadline was too fast." Thus, KV co-owner Jimmy Vasser turned his attention to Bourdais.
"I have raced against him and can say without a doubt that he is an exceptional driver and a true champion. We look forward to winning a lot of races with him," said Vasser, the 1996 CART champion.
It's not clear what the decision means for Dragon Racing as the team has already announced that it may not even run the full schedule next season. The organization is committed to running a Formula-E team but has not announced anything concrete for the IndyCar Series next season.
Meanwhile, Hinchcliffe is still awaiting a potential offer from current team Andretti Autosport as the team is said to have found the sponsorship needed to resign the Canadian once Go Daddy leaves the driver and sport after the season.