DETROIT (April 11, 2000) - Establishing what could be the curriculum of choice for international open-wheel racing aspirants in the years to come, French talent Soheil Ayari will undertake an unprecedented dual schedule of Dayton Indy Lights Championship and European Formula 3000 competition in 2000.
Ayari, who turned 30 last Wednesday, will run all nine Formula 3000 races with Coloni Racing and nine of 12 Dayton Indy Lights Championship rounds with Brian Stewart Racing (BSR). He makes his Indy Lights debut at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend, but will miss Round 2 at Milwaukee in addition to the Chicago and Mid-Ohio races later in the season. Those events conflict with races on the European Formula 3000 schedule.
Ayari has been a top open-wheel driver in Europe for most of the past decade. He won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix Formula 3 race in 1997, the same year he won his first Formula 3000 race at Helsinki, Finland, driving for Astromega. In his last two seasons of Formula 3000, Ayari finished fifth in the 1998 championship, with the Durango team, and seventh overall last year driving for Cica Team Oreca. He scored his second career win at the A1-Ring in Austria in 1998.
Ayari's championships include the 1996 French Formula 3 series which he dominated with 11 wins driving for Graff Racing. He also won the 1994 French Formula Ford championship with the same team.
"We welcome Soheil to the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and wish him a great deal of success with his ambitious schedule," said Indy Lights President Roger Bailey. "Indy Lights and Formula 3000 have always had a great deal in common, but this is the first time a driver will simultaneously compete in both series as a way of taking the final step to the top echelons of our sport. I am sure the eyes of the international motorsports community will be on Soheil during his historic season."
Formula 3000 is positioned in Europe as a final proving ground for drivers bound for Formula One while Indy Lights has been quite successful as the final training arena for CART Champ Car drivers. Eight drivers competing in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series are winning graduates of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
While Ayari is the first driver to mix Indy Lights and international Formula 3000, several drivers in the FedEx Championship series have experience in the European category. Most notably, reigning FedEx champion Juan Montoya won the 1998 European Formula 3000 championship. Christian Fittipaldi won the Formula 3000 crown in 1991, and Max Papis, Mark Blundell, Kenny Brack, Gil de Ferran, Mauricio Gugelmin, Roberto Moreno and 1998 Indy Lights champion Cristiano da Matta all have EuropeanFormula 3000 experience.