BROOKLYN, MI (July 23, 2000) - PPI Motorsports has extended its relationship with CART competitor Cristiano da Matta, driver of the ...
BROOKLYN, MI (July 23, 2000) - PPI Motorsports has extended its relationship with CART competitor Cristiano da Matta, driver of the #97 Pioneer Electronics/WorldCom Toyota-Reynard, by renewing his contract to drive for the team for another year. The agreement, announced today by team owner Cal Wells III in a team meeting at Michigan Speedway, exercises the team's option to maintain its contract with da Matta through the 2001 season. "Cristiano is, undeniably, one of the most talented racecar drivers in the CART paddock today," said Wells. "He has helped make this our most competitive season yet, and we're looking forward to delivering a consistent, winning program with him through this season and next. We are renewing our commitment to him now in order to allow both Cristiano and the team to focus entirely on the business at hand: winning."
Da Matta, a second-year CART veteran, is enjoying his most successful CART season to date. He enters Michigan 500 weekend, his 31st CART career start, on the heels of his first podium (third at Cleveland), his first front-row start (second at Toronto) and his first CART race in which he not only led laps, but also led the most laps (also Toronto). To date this season, da Matta has posted five top-five finishes, four top-ten qualifying efforts and stands eighth in points going into Sunday's race at Michigan Speedway. "As a driver, the last thing you want to worry about is what happens next year, especially when things are going so well right now," said da Matta. "We've had some great races lately, but it's been more than just the races. The team, the car, the technical side, everything has come together and the chemistry is really good. This is a good time for the team, and I feel lucky to be here. And I'm looking forward to even more good results this season and next year."
"Everyone at Pioneer Electronics could not be happier that Cristiano will be back driving the #97 Pioneer Electronics Champ car for the 2001 season," said Ed Sachs, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Pioneer Electronics, USA. "Cristiano has proven to be a fierce competitor and someone we are very proud at Pioneer to be associated with, hopefully for a long time to come. Cristiano continues to be an asset to Pioneer both on and off the track, and we are most pleased with this announcement."
Da Matta joined PPI after two years in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship, where he earned a career total seven race wins and four pole positions en route to 1997 Rookie of the Year honors and the 1998 Indy Lights championship title. In his rookie CART season (1999), da Matta earned a record-setting best finish of fourth for the Toyota engine program at Nazareth - a benchmark that remained unbroken through the beginning of the 2000 season. Da Matta has already matched that finish three times this season (Brazil, Japan and Toronto) and has surpassed it with his own career best of third in Cleveland.