Rahal Letterman Racing re-signs Vitor Meira to a multi-year contract
HILLIARD, OH . . . Rahal Letterman Racing announced today the signing of Vitor Meira to a multi-year contract which will see the young Brazilian pilot a Honda powered G-Force in the 2005 IRL IndyCar Series championship. Meira will enter his first full-season with Rahal Letterman Racing after having run 14 of 16 races for the team in 2004.
Sponsorship of the # 17 Rahal Letterman Honda G-Force, while finalized, will be announced at a later date.
In announcing its driver line-up for 2005, the team formally announced the signing of Meira to a multi-year contract. The 27-year-old finished eighth in the IndyCar Series in 2004, despite running two fewer events than the rest of the top-ten drivers. Based on his on track success, Meira was presented the IRL Rising Star Award, which honors the late Tony Renna. Meira also was awarded the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap Award for posting the fastest race lap of the entire season.
Meira will combine with the Argent/Pioneer cars of Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick to give Rahal Letterman Racing its first full-season three-car program. All three cars will be utilizing Firestone Firehawk tires.
Meira is entering his fourth season in the IndyCar Series having run parts of the 2002 and 2003 seasons for Team Menard. Meira joined Rahal Letterman Racing in April of 2004 when the team ceased operation of its Champ Car program and expanded its IndyCar program to a multi-car effort. Meira posted six top-five results and 11 top-ten finishes in 14 races for Rahal Letterman. He captured the pole position at Milwaukee and twice finished second (Richmond and Kansas). At Kansas he finished behind his teammate Buddy Rice by .0051 of a second, the second closest finish in series history.
Meria and Rice each received a timepiece from TAG Heuer for the "Closest Finish" contest for posting the closest finish in the IndyCar Series in 2004.
"Vitor stepped into an extremely difficult situation last year and excelled," said Bobby Rahal co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing. "Our second full-season entry came together in a very short time and Vitor had to adapt to our team while competing on the track. There was no grace period and no proverbial honeymoon for him. Based on what he accomplished last season without the benefit of an off-season testing program, I am optimistic that he will achieve even greater success this year."
"I am thrilled to continue with Rahal Letterman Racing and to team with Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick," said Meira. "I am looking forward to having a full off season to test the Honda/G-Force and prepare to run a full season effort. Last year was tough as I was adjusting to a new team and situation while focusing on a race weekend. Even with that extra burden we were still able to enjoy some success. As a team we have high expectations for this season, and I have some high expectations for myself."
"We developed a relationship with Vitor last season, when he showed himself to be very capable, and fast, said Robert Clarke, Vice President and General Manager of Honda Performance Development, Inc. "But for some bad racing luck, he probably should have won a race, or two. All of us at Honda are going to work very hard to make sure his luck evens out this year."
"2004 was an incredible year for Rahal Letterman Racing with Buddy Rice winning the Indianapolis 500 and fighting for the championship and Vitor Meira emerging as one of the bright young stars of the sport," said team co-owner David Letterman. "With the addition of Danica Patrick to our IndyCar Series program, the 2005 season holds the promise of more great memories."
Rahal Letterman Racing, based in Hilliard, Ohio and co-owned by three-time IndyCar Champion Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman, has been a leading open-wheel racing operation for more than a decade compiling 19 victories, 26 poles and one series championship (Bobby Rahal in 1992 in CART) and an Indianapolis 500 championship (Rice in 2004). In 2005 Rahal Letterman Racing will enter three cars in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series. Buddy Rice and rookie Danica Patrick will drive Honda powered G-Force cars sponsored by Argent Mortgage Company and Pioneer Electronics. Vitor Meira of Brazil will pilot a Honda/G-Force sponsored by a yet to be announced partner.