British racing ace Justin Wilson will stay in the Champ Car World Series for a second season after signing for the RuSPORT team for 2005.
Sheffield-born Wilson, 26, will join rising Champ Car driver AJ Allmendinger at the squad, which will itself be entering only its second year in the US-based single-seater championship.
The combination of Wilson and Allmendinger is expected to create one of the strongest pairings in the series. Both drivers fought a tough, season-long campaign for 2004 Rookie of the Year honours.
Wilson's performance in his debut season for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing attracted great interest this year, as he challenged the established Newman-Haas and Forsythe Racing teams on several occasions, posting 10 top ten qualifying starts (including two in the top three) and eight top ten finishes during the season. He rounded out the season by qualifying third and finishing fourth at Mexico City.
The RuSPORT team also impressed on its debut season in the Series, helping A.J. Allmendinger to the Rookie of the Year title. RuSPORT is aiming to challenge for the Series championship in 2005.
"I'm obviously very excited to be joining RuSPORT," said former F1 pilot and International Formula 3000 champion Wilson. "The atmosphere within in the team is great and there is such a high level of drive and professionalism. I think it's the best place to be to win races and championships. I'm also really looking forward to having A.J. as a team-mate because we see things similarly. We get on well even though every weekend we were battling head to head."
Wilson added: "Though I'm delighted to be joining RuSPORT, I want to thank Eric [Bachelart], Chris [Mower] and the Mi-Jack Conquest guys for giving me such a competitive opportunity this year. We had some great results and I wish them all the best in 2005."
Carl Russo, team owner of RuSPORT, is delighted to have secured Wilson's services for next year and believes the pairing of Wilson and Allmendinger will help the team to aim high in 2005. "I am proud of what we accomplished in 2004; however, I know that I speak for all of RuSPORT when I say we are eager to get to the front. I believe we have what it takes to get there. A.J. and Justin are two young champions who know how to go for it. This is going to be fun!"
Wilson funded his F1 Minardi drive and his debut Champ Car season through an innovative investment scheme, which allowed fans to buy shares in Justin Wilson plc, and receive dividends based on the driver's future earnings. The deal with RuSPORT will enable his patient investors to start to recoup some of their investment.
Wilson's manager and fellow Justin Wilson plc Director Jonathan Palmer said: "I am delighted that Justin will be joining RuSPORT for 2005. The team has been really impressive this year and clearly has the resources and commitment to provide Justin with a championship winning opportunity in Champ Cars next season. I must also congratulate Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi for going a great job revitalising Champ Cars, which is now assured a big future, especially with the acquisition of Cosworth by Kevin and Gerry.
"I know Justin is tremendously motivated about his prospects at RuSPORT, and looks forward to being team mates with AJ Allmendinger. I'm sure they'll make a really hungry line up. This is also an exciting time for the shareholders of Justin Wilson plc, who I'm confident can now look forward to watching their investment thrive for many years of top international racing.
"Justin and I will both be really pleased to see their confidence rewarded by a progressively increasing return.'