CONVERSATION: Sebastien Bourdais Race Car Champion

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The winner of the 2017 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg lives in the Sunshine City

BY MARCIA BIGGS

In the world of race car driving, traveling is a way of life. Testing, racing, meeting with team engineers and sponsors –  drivers are jetting across the country and sometimes around the world year-round. So when it comes to choosing a place to call home, a place where you wish to establish roots and raise a family, drivers can pretty much call the shots.

St. Petersburg  won the race for home base for Sebastien Bourdais, the winner of the 2017 Firestone St. Pete Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar race and  four-time Champ Car Champion (2004-2007) with Newman-Haas Racing.  The 39-year-old driver for Dale Coyne Racing (based in Illinois), lives in the Shore Acres neighborhood with his wife, Claire, and children Emma, 11, and Alex, 7.

Bourdais is a veteran behind the wheel and a big winner. Between Champ Car and IndyCar series he has won a total of 36 races, not to mention several years racing Formula One cars (2008-2009),  won the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans in 2015, and won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2014 and 2017.

 The native of Le Mans, France, is also a big survivor after a terrifying crash during qualifying last year at Indianapolis that destroyed his car but did not crush his spirit. It was May 20,  just months after the St. Pete win kicked off his season, when Bourdais suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis and a hip fracture in the fiery crash. While most predicted he was out for the rest of the season, he was determined to make a comeback – and he did. Only missing the Indy 500, he was approved by his physician after months of rehab to drive the final three races of the season.  He plans to be on the pole March 11 for the start of this year’s Firestone Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar race.

Bourdais first visited St. Pete for a race in 2003  and liked the weather and the vibe; he and Claire moved here in 2005 and now reside just minutes from the downtown waterfront.

“We thought it would be a really great area to raise a family,”  Bourdais said during a phone interview. “We live on the water, so it’s easy to go kayaking and boating.”

Don’t be surprised if you see Bourdais pedaling around town on his bike. “As part of my workout regimen I bike a lot,” he said. “I like the Pinellas Trail, but will ride around the neighborhood, too.”

Where do he and Claire like to dine when he’s not out on the race circuit?

“We like to try new places, like along Central Avenue,” he said.  But the couple also enjoys a taste of  their native France. “We like Cassis a lot, the owners are friends and a lot of French people go there. Everyone finds their niche.”