Dale Coyne Racing announced that they had run a test session with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais at Sepring on Monday, and may sign the former Champ Car and F1 driver to appear for them at this year's IndyCar road race events.
The possibility of a return to US open-wheel racing on the street and road courses came as a major surprise, as Bourdais had not previously spoken of an interest in such a move.
Bourdais said after the test that "The car was very good and it really felt good to be back in an IndyCar."
"We have talked with Sebastien before and this is an opportunity that has great potential," said team owner Dale Coyne. "We are very serious about moving our effort forward and this, coupled with the continuing Boy Scouts of America program from last season, is one of the most important steps in that direction we can possibly make."
"I really believe in what Dale is doing with his team and it can be a great workable opportunity for both of us this year," said Bourdais, adding that he was "[looking] forward to putting together the pieces to get back into IndyCar racing."
Sebastien Bourdais was completely dominant in Champ Car from 2004 until 2007 when he drove for Newman/Haas Racing, winning 31 races and four consecutive championships. He even managed to clinch third in the preceding CART World Series in his rookie year in America in 2003. His one official IndyCar appearance was the 2005 Indianapolis 500, where he finished 12th.
Bourdais left Champ Car when offered a seat with the Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team in 2008, where he completed one and a half seasons - initially alongside team mate Sebastian Vettel, who went on to become the 2010 F1 world champion. However Bourdais was abruptly let go in mid-2009 due to disappointing results and was replaced by Jaime Alguersuari.
Since then, Bourdais has been racing in Superleague Formula and in the Le Mans Series for Team Peugeot Total in selected events, as well as two races in V8 Supercar. This week's testing and possible deal with Dale Coyne marks his first return to US open wheel racing since the end of his F1 career.
Dale Coyne's drivers in 2010 were Milka Duno and Alex Lloyd, who claimed the team's best result of the year with a fourth place at the Indianapolis 500. However on Monday the team were testing 23-year-old British driver Martin Plowman, who was third in last year's Firestone Indy Lights championship after claiming his first race victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the AFS-Andretti Autosport joint operation.
"We have tested a lot of new drivers over the years," said Coyne. "Martin is one of the best that we have seen and we look forward to a positive growth curve with this aspiring young talent."
"I am very pleased that everything went exceptionally well today," Plowman confirmed.
With further rumours circulating that Paul Tracy is also set to ink a return to racing with Conquest Racing, the 2011 IndyCar season is starting to develop something of a retro feel to it - but one that should excite both old and new fans of the championship.