A deal to bring former dominant Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais back to US open-wheel racing in IndyCar looks to be close, while Tony Kanaan looks set to win a seat at KV Racing Technology after a frustrating winter.
Rumours that Bourdais would sign up to appear in the 2011 IndyCar street course events began when the Frenchman tested with Dale Coyne Racing
in January at Sebring in Florida. At the time, team owner Dale Coyne was quoted as saying "We have talked with Sebastien before and this is an opportunity that has great potential," adding: "We are very serious about moving our effort forward."
It's now emerged that the squad has this week run a second private test with Bourdais at Sebring, and has officially named him as one of their two drivers at next week's official pre-season public testing event at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
"There're a couple little things to work out," Coyne told SI.com
, stressing that no deal had yet actually been inked. "Everything should come together here. It's a fluid beginning of the season for a lot of people. We're happy with him and I think he's happy with us, so we'll see what we can work out."
Coyne has already added a new team manager and engineer to his outfit this week to prove his commitment to Bourdais. "A couple [of] good people became available and obviously when you have a driver of his calibre, you have more people that are interested, so it all kind of works together. It's good for what he wanted. It's good for what I wanted."
Bourdais is clearly smarting from his F1 experience with Toro Rosso where he didn't feel sufficiently supported by Red Bull's junior team. "[If] there's not the right people around, [Dale] might as well just save the money because I'm no super hero," he said. "I'm a good guy if I'm surrounded by quality people and a good team. There is no magic in this."
Coyne revealed that the possibility of Bourdais entering IndyCar actually emerged midway through last year, but that it had proved "just too much last-minute and too complicated, so we stayed in touch" given issues with Bourdais' LeMans Series campaign and also the fact that he had just become a father for the second time.
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. He left the US series for a short-lived run in F1 with Toro Rosso in 2008.
Meanwhile there has been speculation that veteran Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan is closing in on a deal to drive for KV Racing Technology in 2011, after Kanaan tweeted a message to his fans saying "I will have a good ride in 2011."
The KV Racing team co-owned by Jimmy Vassar and Kevin Kalkhoven is said by Speed.com
to have the deal "all but signed, sealed and delivered."
"I don't think it's any secret we'd love to have Tony and we've been working hard to make it a reality but it's still a work in progress," insisted KV Racing general manager Mark Johnson on Thursday.
Kanaan's had a turbulent winter, first being let go by his former team Andretti Autosports after his primary sponsor 7-11 pulled out of backing the team, and then seeing a deal to drive for de Ferran Dragon Racing collapse after the team folded for lack of sufficient team sponsorship.
It's understood that Kanaan also been talking with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing but that the KV Racing deal is now the front-runner.
If the deal does go through, KV Racing would be operating a three car squad as Takuma Sato and EJ Viso are already confirmed to return to the team in 2011. However, both drivers had a rather accident prone season last year, and Kanaan's experience and proven race-finishing abilities could be just what the team requires to move to the "next level". KV Racing may also run a fourth car for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
The odds seem to be that both Kanaan and Bourdais will be lining up on the grid for the first race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series, on March 27 on the streets of St Petersburg in Florida.