One of Champ Car's most experienced but well traveled drivers will have a seat secured for the entirety of the 2008 season, as today Oriol Servia was announced as one of PKV Racing's drivers. The team, according to general manager Mark Johnson, will run two cars for the upcoming season. It has been rumored that Champ Car Atlantic champion Raphael Matos is in the running for the second seat along with holdover Neel Jani and perhaps a number of other drivers that will be participating in off-season tests.
"I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue with PKV Racing," Servia said. "I want to thank Mr. Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and Mark Johnson for giving me this opportunity. I know the team and they know me. This will be only the second time in my whole career that I am able to race for a team that I have been with before. The only other time was with Dorricott Racing in 1999 and we won the (Indy Lights) championship. That is why I am so excited to start working and preparing for our goals this season. I feel that the relationship the team and I have established in the past will be very important as we compete for the championship in 2008."
Servia finished sixth in the 2007 standings even though he missed the season opener at Las Vegas. He ended up starting the season in Long Beach with Forsythe Championship Racing and then switching to PKV for the final two events following his dismissal, performances notwithstanding, from Forsythe. The Spaniard stepped in for an injured Paul Tracy at Long Beach where on short notice he qualified 14th and finished an incredible 2nd, his season best. He also recorded podium finishes at San Jose and Mexico City, the latter after being jettisoned at the last minute. At PKV, he showed his speed with provisional pole and a front row start in Surfer's Paradise and then a top-four start in Mexico City.
This upcoming season will be Servia's ninth in Champ Cars, and marks a return to PKV where he raced for all of 2006 as well. That year he struggled however, finishing outside the top ten in the standings with only one podium finish. Servia has also driven for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, and the former Patrick, PacWest, Sigma, and PPI squads.
Now living in Miami, Fla., Servia hails from Pals, Catalonia, Spain and even though he has scored just one win and one pole in his career he has been a front-runner for the last several seasons, and paid his dues by racing for some of the lesser-funded teams in his early days. A race later this year in Jerez, Spain, gives Servia a chance to race in his homeland, an opportunity two drivers had with races in the Netherlands and Belgium one year ago.
Johnson and team co-owner Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 series champion, appear thrilled with the signing and the fact it is occurring so early in the year. "We are very pleased to be able to come to an agreement with Oriol so quickly," Johnson said. "He did an outstanding job for us the last two events of the 2007 season and is one of the top drivers in the Champ Car series. Given Oriol's proven talent, experience, familiarity with the team and having him on board this earlier in the pre-season will allow us to proceed with our off-season program to the fullest as we pursue our goal of winning the championship."
"We believe that having Oriol, who is not only one of the most experienced and best drivers in the series, but also a good friend, compete for the team in 2008, provides us with the best opportunity to continue developing a championship caliber program as well as giving us the best chance to contend for the championship," Vasser said.
The timing of this announcement is intriguing, as in recent years few teams have confirmed anything much before a month preceding the season opener. The main attraction which drivers will be coveting, and perhaps auditioning for, remains the open seat at Newman/Haas/Lanigan opposite Graham Rahal.