Q&A: Sebastien Bourdais Talks Karting and More
Sebastien Bourdais is one of the most successful IndyCar drivers in history. The driver from Le Mans has amassed 34 poles and 37 wins (sixth of all-time for both stats), and four championships (in succession from 2004-2007 – the only IndyCar driver to ever do so). His success in racing also includes multiple sports car accolades: he’s won overall at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans. He’s won his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and has finished second overall there with Team Peugeot three times. He’s also driven 27 races in Formula 1, earning six points in his F1 career. In other words, this guy’s got some serious skills behind the wheel.
Bourdais was generous enough to lend us some time before the Long Beach Grand Prix where he looked back on his early days as a kart racer, and reveals the exciting vehicle he drives daily, among other tidbits. Read on!
K1 Speed: Do you remember the first time you sat in a go-kart and when that was?
Sebastien Bourdais: Well, in a real racing go-kart I was ten. I got into a couple of rentals when I was I think eight or something.
K1S: Do you remember that first competitive race you were in, and how you did? Was it a struggle or did it come naturally?
SB: Yeah, it was the end of the season. I got my first go-kart for my birthday (in 1989) and then we had a year of testing, and we did the last race and it was pretty interesting. I got a lot of… I had to learn pretty fast, let’s just say that! It was very different from just being on your own just doing laps to racing with a bunch of guys who had done this for a little while.
K1S: What lessons did you take from karting that you are still able to apply to today?
SB: Yeah, you just grow as a driver and it’s a bank of information that you accumulate, that you use to your advantage throughout your career. I don’t know if it’s all conscious all the time, but you need the experience. You need to be able to lean on something, and that’s the first step.
K1S: And what about a kid that comes into K1 Speed for the first time, falls in love with it and wants to pursue it as a career, what would you recommend?
SB: I mean, it’s just become such a tough business, right? The biggest issue these days is obviously everything requires a lot of money, and that’s the hardest thing. And that’s the heartbreaking part: every time you get a very talented kid, they don’t necessarily have the (financial) support to be able to go through. But, you know, all you can do is just give your very best, make sure you always have fun and you’re serious about it if you really want to give yourself the chance. And sometimes the opportunities come out for you, and you have to be ready and be there to seize them.
K1S: What were some of your biggest accomplishments in karting overall that you’re most proud of?
SB: I guess the biggest thing I have won in go-karts was the 24 Hours of Le Mans (the annual karting endurance race held on the Alain Prost circuit), where I think we won by 20 laps or something which was pretty unusual because it was usually pretty tight, and yeah, that’s probably the biggest race I won in go-karts.
K1S: Wow, fantastic. And just some fun questions now – like what’s your favorite track that you like to race at and why?
SB: Cars or go-karts?
K1S: Well, let’s do both!
SB: Well, cars… I’d say Road America. For me, that’s a kind of natural, historical race track that’s untouched by F1 – thankfully, and hopefully never. And then go-kart, I haven’t been to too many go-kart places, but I used to really, really enjoy Laval (Laval Kart Loisirs – Circuit Beausoleil) which was west of France. It was a really neat, super, super fast go-kart track so I really enjoyed that.
K1S: And if you could drive any racecar from the past, is there any apple of your eye that you haven’t had a chance to sit behind the wheel of that you would love to?
SB: I think I’m pretty happy with the cars I’ve been lucky enough to drive. I mean, if they were not so damned dangerous probably the turbo era in F1 who had those monstrous engines in qualifying, but unfortunately, those were still times where if anything happened or if you got it wrong, you were paying the ultimate price. I’m okay with taking some chances, but not…not too many! (laughs)
K1S: Yeah, well you had a close enough call already last year (Bourdais crashed nearly head-on into the barriers at 230mph during the ’17 Indy 500 qualifying session, fracturing his pelvis)! What’s your daily driver right now?
SB: Honda Pilot, so family car.
K1S: And is there another car in your garage that you love?
SB: Uh..hmmm, no. Not really. (we have a feeling there’s something good in there – but alas, he wasn’t willing to comment – perhaps something different from Honda, whom he races with).
K1S: Okay! And did you have any racing idols that you grew up admiring?
K1S: The ultimate. Thank you so much, Sebastien.
SB: Thank you.
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