CHAMPCAR/CART: American Spirit Team Johansson to run Vasser, Hunter-Reay

New team to contest Champ Car World Series with All-American driver lineup. INDIANAPOLIS (January 23, 2003) - Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART Champion, and talented rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay will form the driver lineup for the new American Spirit Team...

New team to contest Champ Car World Series with All-American driver lineup.

INDIANAPOLIS (January 23, 2003) - Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART Champion, and talented rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay will form the driver lineup for the new American Spirit Team Johansson, which will compete in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The announcement was made Thursday by Stefan Johansson, owner of the team and a former competitor in CART.

Vasser, a 37-year-old resident of Las Vegas, and Hunter-Reay, a 22-year-old resident of Boca Raton, Fla., will pilot the team's Ford-Cosworth/Reynards in the 19-race Champ Car World Series. Ed Nathman will serve as engineer on Vasser's car while Graham Taylor will handle engineering duty on Hunter-Reay's machine. Rob Hill will be the crew chief for the team.

"Obviously, we are very excited about competing in this series," said Johansson, the 1997 winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans who also competed in Formula One a number of years. "CART, with its diversity of circuits, is one of racing's top challenges, and it's an honor to be affiliated with companies like Ford and Bridgestone.

"I think Jimmy's record speaks for itself, but I can also attest to his ability first-hand, having competed against him myself. With Jimmy, we know we have a driver capable of winning the championship-he's proven he can do that-and his experience will be an asset to our team.

"I know that Ryan possesses considerable talent and I am looking forward to watching him develop. He showed a lot of speed last year in Toyota Atlantics and is now ready to make that step up to Champ Cars."

Both drivers were pleased to be part of the new operation.

"This is going to be a very interesting season in Champ Car racing, to say the least," Vasser pointed out. "With the new rules and the new 'spec' Ford-Cosworth XFE engine, it's going to be very competitive. On paper, we may be a new team, but we have a number of key people with tons of Champ Car experience to guide us. I'm looking forward to the season."

"To drive in the Champ Car World Series is truly a dream come true," Hunter-Reay added. "I think it will be a real benefit to my career to get to work with people like Jimmy and Stefan, as well as the guys on the crew. I can hardly wait."

First up for the team will be the Spring Training at Sebring, Fla., Feb. 4-6. The season opens Feb. 23 at St. Petersburg, Fla.

-cart-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Jimmy Vasser , Ryan Hunter-Reay