The list of drivers for this year's Indy Racing League IndyCar Series is filling fast as Super Aguri Fernandez Racing confirmed the signing of rookie Kosuke Matsuura to drive its #55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda in the 16-race campaign.
Last season Matsuura finished third in the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, securing three victories (Donington Park, Oschersleben and Estoril) together with five additional podium appearances, including six consecutive podiums in the final rounds of the campaign. Matsuura finished second in the 2002 German Formula 3 championship with two wins - at Hockenheim and Zandvoort - and six pole positions.
Mentor Aguri Suzuki praised his pupil: "I have been supporting Kosuke Matsuura through the ARTA Project since he was competing in karts [he began at the age of 14]. He is very decisive and clever when driving, and he is very fast. I am looking forward to the first win for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing."
Matsuura acknowledged that it has "been my dream to race in a top category and also in the United States, so I am very happy to be able to compete in the IndyCar Series. I am especially excited to race at the Indy Japan and the Indy 500," he said. "I will do my best to meet the team and sponsors' expectations."
This sophomore IndyCar Series team will continue its partnership with industry leaders Panasonic, Honda and Firestone and will, once again be led by managing director Tom Anderson, co-owner of Fernandez Racing. John Dick will return as race engineer and Steve Ragan as chief mechanic. The team has elected to change chassis from Dallara to Panoz G Force for the 2004 season.
Anderson agreed: "We are very impressed with Kosuke's natural driving ability and appetite for speed. He has had enough experience to understand the details of the sport, and has shown in his first three tests the ability to learn very quickly - a trait needed for success in the IndyCar Series.
"We have also seen Kosuke's larger-than-life personality in action and believe this will be a great team motivator. We are excited," Anderson continued, "to return for our second season in the IRL IndyCar Series with the continued support of Panasonic and Autobacs, and to continue our long- term relationship with both Honda and Firestone. It's going to be a really good season," he emphasized.
Kosuke Matsuura (pronounced "Kohs-kay" and "Mat-sur-ah") will get his baptism with all of his competitors on-circuit during the Indy Racing League's initial open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on January 28-29. He will mark his first American competition on February 29th at the same south Florida venue.