Four-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais has signed with KV Racing to replace Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, The Associated Press has learned.
Three people familiar with the signing said Wednesday that Bourdais signed a two-year contract with the team, KVSH Racing. They spoke on condition of anonymity because principals Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan had not announced the signing.
Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500 in May with KVSH, but decided to leave for Chip Ganassi Racing next year. KVSH acted fast in offering the same deal it offered Kanaan to three-race winner James Hinchcliffe, but the team gave Hinchcliffe a short deadline to accept the contract that rendered a salary and did not require the driver to bring any sponsorship.
When Hinchcliffe decided KVSH’s timeline was too fast, the team moved on to Bourdais, winner of four consecutive Champ Car titles from 2004 through 2007.
The Frenchman has 31 victories, tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy for eighth on the all-time wins list.
Bourdais left American open-wheel racing for Formula One following his fourth Champ Car title, joining Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2008 season. He was replaced nine races into the 2009 season.
Bourdais joined Team Peugeot after his release and finished second in the LMP1 class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009, dabbling in a variety of different series before returning to IndyCar in 2011 for nine races with Dale Coyne Racing.
Bourdais landed a full-time ride in 2012 with Dragon Racing, where he was hampered for the first part of the season with a Lotus engine. After a switch to Chevrolet before the Indianapolis 500, Bourdais had to share his car with teammate Katherine Legge for the remainder of the season. He finished 25th in the final standings with a season-best finish of fourth at Mid-Ohio.
This year has been a far better showing from Bourdais as Dragon has put forth a more stable effort. Bourdais has three podium finishes, including a runner-up finish to Scott Dixon in Toronto.
Now he joins a team that clearly can compete on ovals — all three of Kanaan’s podiums this season are on ovals — but isn’t sure what it can do on road and street courses because that’s not Kanaan’s strength. But because Simona de Silvestro finished second at Houston two weeks ago in KVSH’s second car, the team believes Bourdais will give them a well-rounded driver capable of challenging on every circuit.