Sebastien Bourdais came to the CART Champ Car World Series with impressive credentials, having won the FIA F3000 championship in 2002, and served notice from the first day of the 2003 season that he would be the man to beat in one of the biggest rookie fields in series history.

Bourdais scored the pole for his first two Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford races and became the first driver to ever lead the opening lap of his Champ Car career by pacing the opener at St Petersburg. His qualifying went better than his race days in those first three events, but he soon corrected that problem, taking wins in Brands Hatch and at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, as well as a victory from the pole in Cleveland.

The Newman/Haas pilot went on a tear after the Cleveland race, using the North Coast win to spark a run of five consecutive top-five finishes - a series record for rookies - that would give him command of the series rookie of the year standings. He then took a runner-up finish in Denver to close on the title and cemented the honour with a second-place run in Mexico City, becoming the first French driver to win the CART Champ Car rookie crown.

"Earning the rookie of the year title was the main target of the year," Bourdais admitted after last weekend's Mexico City race, "and I think it is very good, obviously, to get it two races before the end.

"Obviously, we knew that we were in pretty good shape. We had a big advantage over Darren [Manning] and were looking very strong here in Mexico. We got very important points, as these next two races are going to be very difficult. I just hope to be up there."

Bourdais became the first rookie since Juan Montoya in 1999 to win multiple races in his first year in the series, and has also strung together an all-time rookie record by qualifying in the top six for the last eleven races. He has earned three wins and four poles, and has amassed seven podium finishes in the year's 17 races, all of which are the best by a Champ Car rookie since 1999.

 

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