"It went pretty fast," Sebastien Bourdais said of how the deal came together that sees him return to full-time IZOD IndyCar Series competition in 2012, for the first time since he won the last of four consecutive Champ Car titles with Newman/Haas in 2007.

"Basically, a few days before the New Year, I got an email from one of Jay Penske's people," said Bourdais. "It went from no hope, to hope, then to reality over the holidays."

Bourdais had run a partial road course-only campaign with Dale Coyne Racing in 2011 and said that he had been "pretty optimistic" of doing the same again in 2012 after finishing off with a strong run of performances toward the end of the season.

"It looked like [Dale Coyne] wanted to continue and we agreed on financial terms and so on, but then he never committed," Bourdais told US motor sports channel SPEED via phone from his home in Le Mans. "I asked him to give me a word - positive or negative - before Christmas, and I never got a word from him."

Coyne is now expected to sign Justin Wilson to his team for 2012, leaving Bourdais out of the picture.

But just as it looked like US open wheel racing was once again in the past for the former Toro Rosso F1 driver, Bourdais got the intriguing email from Dragon Racing - and had to think about where his priorities lay.

Last year, he selected his IndyCar appearances to fit around his races for Peugeot in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup; in 2012, the situation is reversed with IndyCar events getting priority and his ILMC schedule having to fit around them.

For the most part it has worked out well, but the possibility of the return to the IndyCar schedule of Milwaukee on June 16-17 was almost a deal-breaker as it would conflict with the one must-do race Bourdais has in Europe: the Le Mans 24 Hours.

"That was part of the negotiations, which slowed the agreement a little bit," explained Bourdais. "Jay needed some approval from the sponsors that it would be okay for me to miss one race if that scenario materialises."

Now there's a scramble for Bourdais, Penske and everyone at Dragon to get ready for the first race of the season at St Petersburg at the end of March. The team have only just clinched their engine deal as a Lotus factory team, and need to assemble personnel and start testing.

"We just signed the deal, so I'm not sure on when I'll start testing," said Bourdais, who added that he and his family (wife Claire and two small children) will be relocating to Florida for the duration, confirmation of how seriously Bourdais is taking this second crack at US open wheel racing.

"Everybody is starting from scratch, we'll be a bit behind, but with so many questions about the new car, I don't think it's that big of a deal," Bourdais told SPEED. "There are only unknowns this year, and everyone hopes they have the right combination."

While much of the attention on Dragon was inevitably centred on the former F1 driver, the announcement of another former Champ Car driver joining Dragon, Britain's Katherine Legge, was almost as big a surprise to racing fans and experts as Bourdais' own signing.

"I am very proud to be driving in the 2012 IndyCar Series for Lotus Dragon Racing," said Legge, who was the first woman to compete full time in the Champ Car World Series in 2006 and also the first woman to lead a lap in that series.

She had previously won three races in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2005, becoming the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America.

"I am very much looking forward to working with all of those involved, and I am excited to get out on track now alongside a fantastic teammate in Sebastien Bourdais," added Legge.

In return, Bourdais said that: "I'm sure we'll have a good relationship. She's a smart person and a good person all around. She's put a lot of effort and energy into transforming possibilities into what she has created for herself today."

Legge's return to competition is backed by sponsorship from automotive solutions provider TrueCar, Inc.

"Lotus, Dragon and TrueCar have put together an amazing programme that I have every faith will succeed and win races," she said. "Lotus has such a great heritage and racing background and will be an enormous strength to our program."

Since the unification of Champ Car with the Indy Racing League to form the IndyCar Series in 2008, Legge has been racing in DTM in Europe for Futurecom TME, Abt Lady Power and Team Rosberg, but last year moved back to the US determined to get a full season seat back where she had her biggest successes - in US open wheel competition.

For team boss Jay Penske, it's an extraordinary come back for his team that was declared all but dead and buried when former co-owner Gil de Ferran administered the last rites and walked away.

Penske managed to put together an operation to field Paul Tracy for five races, and attempted to put two cars into the centennial Indianapolis 500 but was unable to make the grid with either Ho-Pin Tung or Scott Speed due to accidents to the team cars in practice.

Now with the backing of a new sponsor and with the full factory deal with its engine supplier, Dragon looks to be very much back in the game.

"I am extremely excited and proud to partner with Lotus Cars and TrueCar," said Penske. "The combination of having the technical support of Lotus as a factory team, the financial backing of a game-changing company TrueCar as a primary sponsor and the unquestionable driving skills of Sebastien and Katherine makes us a force to be reckoned with in 2012."

Barracuda Networks to sponsor Bryan Herta Autosports

Enterprise technology company Barracuda Networks was announced as the primary sponsor for Bryan Herta Autosports's IZOD IndyCar Series entry in 2012, to be driven by Alex Tagliani.

"They have shown tremendous confidence and vision in partnering with us as primary sponsor for the 2012 season," said team co-owner Bryan Herta of the company, a specialist in content security appliances. "We are thrilled to welcome them to the team and look forward to delivering results both on and off the track."

The Barracuda Networks sponsorship will include primary branding on the car and on all team equipment, while the car's iconic livery will also reflect BHA's status as a factory partner team to Lotus.

Herta added that associate sponsors will be announced in the upcoming weeks.