PHOENIX, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002 -- Mark Taylor, a new member of Panther Racing, turned his first laps in an Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series car Dec. 9 and 10 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Taylor, 24, from London, will compete in the 2003 Infiniti Pro Series season for Panther, which won the Indy Racing League championship in 2001 and 2002 with Sam Hornish Jr.
"I think it went very well," Taylor said. "The car ran without any problems. By the end of the two days, we were all fairly happy with the way it went."
Taylor, who was nominated for the prestigious McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award in 2000, has competed in the British Formula 3 championship the past two seasons.
"It's completely different than anything I've done," Taylor said. "I've done karting and a lot of road races, and that's what I'm used to. I'm used to having grass most of the time on both sides of me.
"It's fairly quicker than I'm used to. It's quite different getting used to the speed and being consistently quick around the whole circuit, through the corners and getting used to the banking."
Taylor had assistance from Hornish, who was testing his IRL car at Phoenix at the same time and scored his first career IRL victory at the facility in 2001. Taylor also received help from 1985 Indianapolis 500 pole winner Pancho Carter, who serves as Hornish's spotter and also drove at Phoenix many times during his Indy-style career.
"Pancho was helping out, and Sam was helping out just with the right lines and trying to be smooth," Taylor said. "I'm used to having to fight the car quite a lot, so changing my driving style to being smooth with the throttle and the steering was quite important."
While Taylor was getting accustomed to the new car, so was the entire Panther Racing team, which will field an Infiniti Pro Series car for the first time in 2003. Chris Griffis will head up the Infiniti Pro Series effort for the team.
"I was pretty pleased with the performance of the car itself," Griffis said. "For the first time out, we had no problems at all.
"(Mark) got in the thing, and he'd never been to an oval track before, let alone driven one. He did really well; he didn't go out and try to set the track record the first 10 laps. He just continuously kept getting faster and faster."
The second Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series season starts March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.