Another decade quickly draws to a close, and with it comes the big question in the motorsports world: Who is the greatest race car driver since 2000?
ESPN.com will roll out nine Driver of the Decade candidates over the next two weeks in alphabetical order, beginning today with open-wheel ace Sebastien Bourdais. Our panel of experts has voted for its top drivers. You will get the opportunity to add your input on Jan. 8 with a SportsNation fan vote.
Let the debate begin
Series: Champ Car/CART
Recently fired from his Formula One ride, Bourdais made his name known this decade for his other open-wheel exploits, most notably in the Champ Car World Series between 2003 and 2007.
From the moment that CART became Champ Car, Bourdais was winning races. He won 51 percent of the races between 2004 and 2007, in fact. The Le Mans, France, native also rang off four consecutive titles in that span. To put that in perspective, no driver in Champ Car/CART history (the series began in 1979) had ever won three straight championships, much less four. These include names like Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi. Yes, the competition was tougher in those days, but should Bourdais be punished for that?
Bourdais was winning elsewhere as well. Before his foray into Champ Car, he was the FIA F3000 champion in 2002. That same year he teamed up with Larbre Competition and won the famed 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium.
The driver's versatility shone through when he became the first Champ Car/CART driver since 1997 to win an IROC race when he took the checkered flag at Texas in 2005. Bourdais was also a member of the winning GT2 team at the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring, and finished second overall at the 2007 and 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans while driving with Peugeot. In 2009, Bourdais finished second overall at Sebring.
Coming Tuesday: Sam Hornish Jr.
Tom McKean is a studio researcher at ESPN.