MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- Team Rahal, a franchise member of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), and the Gigante Group, one of the leading self-service retail chains in Mexico, announced today a primary partnership that will place Michel Jourdain Jr. in a Team Rahal Ford-Cosworth powered Lola Champ Car featuring Bridgestone Potenza tires for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season.
"We are pleased to join in a partnership with Gigante, and to welcome Michel to our team," said three-time CART champion and Team Rahal co-owner Bobby Rahal. "Countless hours have gone into making this relationship come to fruition. One thing became abundantly clear as we worked on this partnership with Gigante, that this is a dedicated and driven group of individuals that has aggressive plans for growth throughout Mexico and the United States for their company. The fact that they have chosen the international appeal of CART, a North American based racing series, to market their product speaks volumes about the appeal of CART and the strength of the schedule for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series."
Driver Michel Jourdain Jr. holds the distinction of being the youngest driver in Champ Car history, an honor he secured when he made his CART debut in the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 1996 at the age of 19. Entering his seventh season of Champ Car racing in 2002, Jourdain joins Team Rahal after having spent the past two-seasons with Bettenhausen Motorsports. In 2001 while piloting a Ford-Cosworth/Lola, he posted a career best third place finish at Michigan. The popular young native of Mexico City already has 101 Champ Car starts to his credit.
"Getting involved from the start with two great organizations like Gigante and Team Rahal is an amazing opportunity for me," said Michel Jourdain Jr. "It says a lot about Team Rahal and CART that a successful international company like Gigante, one that has never been in racing before, has started a racing program in the FedEx Championship Series. The chance to drive for Team Rahal is a dream come true. I have spoken to Bobby in the past about various opportunities but this time everything came together and we have a deal. The chance to join the most successful team in CART from last year and to drive with a great champion like Jimmy Vasser was the kind of opportunity I was looking for at this stage of my career. I am looking forward to helping the team fight for the championship in 2002."
"Michel has made great strides over the last couple of seasons and I think he is poised to break through as one of the young stars of this sport," said Rahal. "Having a teammate like Jimmy Vasser will be a great benefit to him. The opportunity to be part of a two-car team that led the series in wins last season and being able to take advantage of Team Rahal's status as the Ford-Cosworth factory team makes this an ideal situation for Michel."
"I am really looking forward to working with Michel and helping him develop as a driver," said Jimmy Vasser, 1996 CART champion who will pilot the Shell car in 2002. "From top to bottom every individual I have met here at Team Rahal is focused on winning a championship this season. As a member of Team Rahal I will help Michel out in any way I can. As his teammate any success he has on track will ultimately help me as well. I can't think of anything better than having two front-running cars at the team."
"It's a pleasure to welcome a talented young driver like Michel and an aspiring new sponsor like Gigante to the team," said Team Rahal co-owner David Letterman. "Team Rahal is unique in having developed longstanding partnerships with its sponsors over the years. I hope that today is just the start of a long, mutually beneficial relationship between Gigante and Team Rahal."
Team Rahal is a franchise member of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). Headquartered in Hilliard, Ohio, the team owned by three-time CART Champion Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman, currently fields a pair of Championship Cars for 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser and Michel Jourdain Jr. in the CART FedEx Championship Series and an entry for Vasser in the Indianapolis 500. The 65-member team enjoys primary sponsorship from the Shell Oil Company and the Gigante Group in CART and the Miller Brewing Company for the Indy 500.