Former Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais has finalised his return to US open wheel racing with the announcement of a deal with Dale Coyne Racing for 2011.
The signing has been rumoured for several weeks ever since Bourdais started testing with the team at sessions including the official pre-season tests last week at Barber Motor Speedway. As expected, Bourdais has signed up to appear on only the street and road courses, and will not be taking part in any of the oval events - even the Indianapolis 500 - and instead will be continuing to compete in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
Bourdais will be driving the red, white and blue #19 Boy Scouts of America car from this weekend's event at St Petersburg, Florida, which is where he lived when competing full time in Champ Car from 2003 to 2007 - during which time he won 31 races and four consecutive championships, before transferring to F1 with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2008 and 2009 for a rather less successful stint.
"I'm excited to join Dale Coyne Racing and to be in an IndyCar again," said Bourdais. "Together Dale and I are dedicated to our goals as we move forward," he continued, adding: "I want to thank Dale for the impressive effort he is putting forth in what is a very competitive series."
"We're very excited to have someone of Sebastien's talent join our team for this effort in 2011," confirmed team owner Dale Coyne.
Perhaps more surprising is the identity of Bourdais' team mate at Dale Coyne for the year ahead - 23-year-old relative unknown British driver James Jakes from Leeds, who unexpectedly transfers from GP2.
Jakes had previously signed a deal in January to continue in GP2 with Scuderia Coloni in both the GP2 Asia and GP2 main series, but last week was present at Barber Motor Speedway testing with Dale Coyne Racing. That was at the cost of dropping out of the weekend's final GP2 Asia race of the season at Imola: he was replaced by Luca Filippi, but it started rumours that Jakes was about to jump across the Atlantic and had his sights set on a transfer to the US, which this deal now confirms.
"I approached the test cautiously and just wanted to learn as there were so many new things to absorb," Jakes is reported as saying after the two-day testing session. "I am very pleased with the test and all that the IZOD IndyCar Series has to offer."
Team owner Dale Coyne was clearly equally impressed with Jakes, who will now become Coyne's main driver bidding for 2011 championship success even if Bourdais will be getting the star attention from the media. "With the program coming together late, his first test at a track he had never seen, in a car he had never driven with the entire field at his heels, showed his talents well," said Coyne.
Jakes will be driving the burgundy and white #18 Acorn Stairlifts IndyCar for the entire 2011 IndyCar season.
Jakes has competed in Formula Renault in 2004/5 and won Rising Star status from the British Racing Drivers Club before moving to Formula 3 in 2006/7 and then GP2 and GP3 in 2008-10. He finished on the podium in two GP2 feature races out of 15 contested, and was the fastest runner at the GP2 tests in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2010.