INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, Dec. 5, 2002) -- CART and Formula 1 driving veteran Tora Takagi has been added to Mo Nunn Racing's lineup for the 2003 Indy Racing League (IRL) season. Takagi, a native of Japan, will join former IRL Rookie of the Year and 2002 race winner Felipe Giaffone to form a two-car, Toyota-powered team under the direction of owner Morris Nunn. The team will use Panoz G-Force chassis and Firestone tires.
In addition, it was announced today that Pioneer Electronics will continue its sponsorship of Mo Nunn Racing for a third consecutive year. Pioneer will become the primary sponsor of Takagi's car in the IRL, continuing an affiliation that also started in 2001. Pioneer will be joined by associate sponsor Denso.
"We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Morris and Mo Nunn Racing for the 2003 season," said Ed Sachs, executive vice president for Mobile Entertainment at Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. "We are equally excited to be able to continue our relationship with Tora Takagi for a third season. Tora's performance on ovals has been extremely good. Combining Tora's driving skills with Morris' engineering and strong team should lead us to a great season."
Takagi, the 28-year-old driver who campaigned a Pioneer-sponsored Toyota on the CART circuit the past two seasons, will enter his first year in the IRL with a team that, in its inaugural year of IRL competition, finished fourth in the championship, third at the Indy 500 and recorded 12 top-seven finishes, including a win at Kentucky.
"It is truly a privilege and an honor to continue my relationship with Pioneer and Toyota, and I am very excited to be joining Mo Nunn Racing in 2003," said Takagi, who recorded 11 top-10 finishes the past two seasons with CART career-bests of fourth place on the mile oval at Chicago in 2002 and on the streets of Houston in 2001. "The team was only in its first season on the IRL this year, but right away it was fighting for the championship with its amazing consistency. I think it is a great place to be as I start my third year of racing in America. And I'm really looking forward to racing in the Indy 500 in May."
After rising through the Formula Nippon Series and Japanese Formula 3 ranks, Takagi became a test driver for the Tyrrell F1 team in 1997, assumed one of its driving positions in 1998, then joined the Arrows F1 team in 1999. He drove to top-10 finishes four times in those two F1 seasons. Takagi then switched to the Formula Nippon Series in 2000, winning eight of 10 races on his way to the series title before joining Walker Racing's CART effort in 2001 and 2002.
"We are looking forward to providing Tora with the resources and environment necessary to compete at this level," said Morris Nunn. "A lot of people were surprised at how Felipe (Giaffone) excelled in our program, but I can tell you we were not. We knew Felipe could achieve the kind of results he did this year and we feel very much the same way in our evaluation of Tora and his potential. I am very pleased that Pioneer has elected to continue their sponsorship of our team. They are one sponsor that really gets behind their program and their ongoing support of our team is a real plus."
Mo Nunn Racing, based in Indianapolis, was formed in December of 1999. Nunn is one of the best-known and most successful engineers in Indy car racing history. While serving as chief engineer for Alex Zanardi in 1996, 1997 and 1998, he helped guide Zanardi to Rookie of the Year honors (1996) and back-to-back CART championships (1997-98). In 1999, Nunn teamed with current Formula 1 star Juan Pablo Montoya to win that year's CART title. Nunn also guided Emerson Fittipaldi to an Indy car championship and an Indy 500 victory in 1989.
The 16-event Indy Racing League schedule for 2003 opens March 2 at Homestead, Fla.