TARGET/CHIP GANASSI RACING DRIVER ALEX ZANARDI TO RETURN TO FORMULA ONE IN 1999
Indianapolis - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Zanardi, the 1997 and 1998 PPG Cup champion, has signed a deal to race for the Winfield Williams team on the FIA Formula One World Championship circuit beginning in the 1999 season. The dual announcement was made today by Chip Ganassi, owner of the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing team, and Frank Williams, owner of Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited.
"Alex has been a great driver, a fantastic teammate, a good student and teacher and a great friend over the last three seasons, and obviously we'll all miss him very much next year," said Ganassi. "While we're sad to see Alex go, we're also happy for him and his new opportunity. He's going to be closer to his home in Monte Carlo and to his friends and family in Italy. This is an exciting, new challenge for him and I know I speak for every team member when I wish him nothing but the best."
"It has been a fantastic three-year relationship with my friends at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing," said Zanardi. "Honestly, I've had opportunities to leave the team earlier on, but I never considered them because I felt staying with Chip was the best opportunity for me at the time. I feel that I have gotten the most out of my three years and now it's time to turn a page in my career. I had a lot of choices and in the end I felt that driving for Williams would provide me with a fantastic technical package and fulfill my personal needs."
The 31-year-old Zanardi has posted 14 victories and 25 podium finishes in just 48 races since joining the Target/Chip Ganassi racing team in 1996. He reached the 14-win plateau faster than any driver in CART history and already ranks eighth in CART history in career wins. He wrapped up his second consecutive PPG Cup in Vancouver on Sept. 6, joining Rick Mears (1981-82) and Bobby Rahal (1986-87) as the only drivers in CART history to win back-to-back titles.
Zanardi has already amassed a CART record-tying 234 points this season, as well as a record 12 podium finishes. His four consecutive victories earlier this season (Detroit, Portland, Cleveland, Toronto) tied the CART record set by Al Unser Jr. in 1990. Zanardi also owns CART records for consecutive pole positions (6) and consecutive front-row starts (11), both of which were set during the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
A native of Bologna, Italy, Zanardi lives in Monte Carlo, Monaco, with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Niccolo, who was born September 7.
With Zanardi's championships in 1997 and 1998 and teammate Jimmy Vasser's title in 1996, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing became just the second team in CART history to win three consecutive PPG Cup championships.