Veteran Sharp, Rookie Matsuura Test At Phoenix Matsuura passes speed phase of IRL Rookie Test INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2003 -- Scott Sharp became the first IRL IndyCar Series driver to test on the slightly reconfigured Phoenix ...
Veteran Sharp, Rookie Matsuura Test At Phoenix
Matsuura passes speed phase of IRL Rookie Test
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2003 -- Scott Sharp became the first IRL IndyCar Series driver to test on the slightly reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway Nov. 11 in the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.
A second day of testing on Nov. 12 was cancelled due to rain.
After the Purex Dial Indy 200 March 23 at PIR, construction crews began reconfiguring the track by eliminating the opening in the backstretch wall and widening the exit to Turn 2. In addition, a portion of Turn 4 was torn up to build a tunnel, and a piece of asphalt in that area had to be repaved.
"PIR has done a great job in their additions to the track," Sharp said. "The tunnel will provide great access, and the repaving in Turn 4 was incredibly smooth. The track was also widened on the exit of Turn 2, which should provide much more racing room when our IRL cars get two abreast."
Sharp completed 138 laps and worked with new engineer Andy Borme for the first time.
"We got on quite well almost immediately," Sharp said. "We seemed to have great understanding and communication. I really liked the new setup Andy put on the car. Without pushing too hard, we were already a fair bit faster than when we qualified at Phoenix last March. Unfortunately, our second day was rained out, but we were able to get a few items accomplished the first day and establish a baseline for when we return in 2004."
In addition to Sharp's testing, Kousuke Matsuura, 24, of Aichi, Japan, completed 134 laps in a Dallara/Honda/ Firestone prepared by Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and passed the speed phase of his IRL Rookie Test.
"It was a great experience," Matsuura said. "It was my first time to drive an oval circuit in an IRL car. The test was good, and I didn't make any mistakes. The car is quite fast, and I really enjoyed it. This was my first time driving in the United States, and it was a great experience."
Indy Racing League Technical Manager Mark Bridges oversaw the test on the 1-mile desert oval.
"He looked good," Bridges said. "He did real well and gave good feedback."
Matsuura drove for the ARTA-Signature team in 2003, finishing third in the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup championship with three wins and six consecutive podium finishes in the final rounds. He began his career in karts at the age of 15 and won multiple championship titles. In 1999, he was invited to attend the Suzuka Racing School Formula (SRS-F), a premiere driver's training program based in Japan.
After claiming the 2000 Formula Dream championship title, Matsuura graduated to the German Formula 3 Championship with the help of the ARTA Project run by Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Co-Owner Aguri Suzuki. Matsuura finished second in the 2002 German F3 Championship with the Prema Powerteam, remaining in contention for the championship until the final rounds. His accomplishments in F3 competition earned Matsuura a test with the Lucky Strike BAR Honda Formula One team in December 2002.
Suzuki, Co-Owner Adrian Fernandez, Managing Director Tom Anderson and Race Engineer John Dick were on hand for the test.
"Obviously, Kousuke has a lot of talent, and we are very pleased with his results from the first day," Anderson said. "We are disappointed that we didn't get to run the second day due to rain, but otherwise we are very pleased."