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Bourdais’ racing plans appear set

Times Staff Writer

Only hours after Sebastien Bourdais won his third consecutive Champ Car World Series title, the question that keeps dogging him resurfaced: What’s his next challenge?

For now, it’s winning the series’ final race of the season Nov. 12 in Mexico City, Bourdais said Monday, a day after clinching the championship at Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Another victory would give the 27-year-old Frenchman seven wins in the 14 races on Champ Car’s schedule, and “show that the championship is well deserved,” he said during a layover on his way home to Florida.

Longer term, Bourdais also appears set to stay in Champ Car, despite persistent speculation that he might move to Formula One or even NASCAR stock car racing. Although Bourdais has made overtures to both series, neither has yet produced an invitation that would prompt him to leave Champ Car, he said.

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In the meantime, Bourdais -- who races for Newman-Haas, co-owned by actor Paul Newman and businessman Carl Haas -- is under contract with that team at least through next year. That means Bourdais will be aiming for a fourth Champ Car championship.

That probably won’t be easy. Champ Car is introducing new races at four tracks next year, including one in Las Vegas and one in China, and the series is introducing a new chassis in 2007.

Bourdais also figures to face stiff competition from A.J. Allmendinger, the Hollister, Calif., driver who has won five races this year and is second in points. That’s assuming Allmendinger doesn’t jump to NASCAR, as some have speculated.

Bourdais opened this season by winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the second consecutive year. Sunday, he clinched the title, despite finishing eighth behind first-time winner Nelson Philippe.

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Champ Car heralded Bourdais’ three consecutive titles as historic, saying he’d tied the late Ted Horn as the only drivers to win three in a row. Horn won national open-wheel championships in 1946, 1947 and 1948.

But it’s a questionable comparison. Bourdais noted that Horn drove in “a completely different era” when many races were run on dirt tracks. Also, Champ Car is now only one of two major series of U.S. open-wheel racing. The other is the Indy Racing League, formed a decade ago, whose drivers don’t compete against Bourdais.

Looking ahead, Bourdais said two Formula One teams, which he declined to identify, offered him the opportunity to be a test driver for a year, but no guarantee he would then get a regular seat in the series.

“For me it’s not really a problem to lose one year” testing, he said. “The problem is, you would have to leave everything you’ve got, everything you’ve taken four years to build, for a test drive and a ‘maybe.’ ”

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Bourdais said he also tried to set up a test in a NASCAR Busch series car but “nobody really showed any kind of interest.” That doesn’t mean he won’t approach the series again, he said, adding, “I’ll never say never.”

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james.peltz@latimes.com


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