With four Indy car championships, 37 wins and 34 poles under his belt, there's no question that Sébastien Bourdais finds comfort in the fast lane.
Keeping the pedal pinned to the floor might be his goal at work but when the helmet comes off and it's time to go home, the high-flying racer works hard at ensuring his feet stay planted firmly on the ground.
“Me? I'm just a regular guy,” Bourdais said with a smile when asked if he had any exciting pastimes outside racing.
“I just try to be a good dad and a good husband. I try to work out the schedule with the kids and the family and things like that as much as possible. You'd think that the more the children grow, the easier it gets, but no, because as far as activities, it just becomes more time consuming.”
CLICK IT: Mid-Ohio Entry List
When he really feels the need to unwind after screeching around at upwards of 200 mph in his No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda powered by Dale Coyne Racing w/Vasser Sullivan, the 40-year-old turns to his one luxury: a 24-foot powerboat. Bourdais, his wife of 13 years, Claire, and two children, Emma, 12, and Alex, 9, can often be found out on the water around the islands and beaches near their St. Petersburg, Florida, home looking interesting places to drop anchor.
“We use the boat mostly to go to islands and go camping,” said Bourdais, who admits he does take his phone on the overnight trips, mostly to keep an eye on the weather.
“There are some really beautiful, small islands around St. Pete and we try to enjoy them. We have a whole camping set up and when the weather is right — just a little on the cool side — we build a little fire, take the tent out, and sleep on the beach right by the waves.”
While some islands allow camping after notifying the proper authorities in advance, others don't. But the lack of an opportunity to pitch a tent doesn't mean the Bourdais clan stays away. Many of the non-camping islands offer great places to snorkel and discover the abundant marine life off Florida's coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
“There are a few places where the water is crystal clear and when it is calm and the sand stays on the bottom, you can see lots of fish,” he said.
“There are often groups of rays that go up and down the beach and feed. It's really amazing.”
While the ocean is one reason Bourdais chose to settle in St. Pete, he also likes the relaxed lifestyle of the coastal city. It has changed over the years, and it bustles a bit more than before, but the pace is still manageable.
“It used to be the best-kept secret,” he said. “Now, more and more people obviously know about how cool St. Pete is and that's why it is getting so busy. It's good and bad.”
One fringe benefit of the city is its direct, two-hour flights to Colorado, where the family likes to go to get in some skiing every year. Vail, Colorado, is one of their favorite spots right now, although the family plans to head a bit further north later this year and test the snow in Whistler, Canada, where the alpine skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics were held.
Although being born in Le Mans, France meant that most of his young life was consumed by racing, he also developed some excellent skiing skills. He spent many a day on the slopes of the Alps mountain range as a child, where his parents had a chalet.
“I've been skiing since I was three or four years old,” he said.
“I try to keep the speed in check because it can get really hairy pretty quick. I don't look for steep slopes; I like a nice wide groomed track and just crave and carve and carve and carve. It's a good workout too, especially in Colorado because of the altitude.”
When he does find some “me time” between family outings and staying in shape to compete in the NTT IndyCar Series, Bourdais tries to “play golf here and there a little bit” but in reality, he'd much rather chill at his house.
“I just try to be a normal person,” he said.
“We go out every now and then but we kind of like to stay away from the crowds. I actually like St. Pete right now because there's nobody downtown. It's too hot for the snowbirds, they're gone, so you can go and have dinner and there's no one around.”