Formula Renault V6 graduate Matsuura Wins Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Honors Indianapolis, IN (1 June 04)-- Formula Renault V6 graduate Kosuke Matsuura won the Bank One 'Rookie of the Year' award for his performance in the Indianapolis...
Formula Renault V6 graduate Matsuura Wins Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Honors
Indianapolis, IN (1 June 04)-- Formula Renault V6 graduate Kosuke Matsuura won the Bank One 'Rookie of the Year' award for his performance in the Indianapolis 500 this weekend as the Japanese racer started ninth and finished the rain-shortened event in eleventh after posting strong performances all month. Matsuura, who finished third in the 2003 Eurocup Formula Renault V6 Championship in 2003 with three wins and eight podiums on the season, was fast all month in his Super Aguri Fernandez Racing machine, leading the timing sheets three times.
The finish moves him to eleventh in the overall IRL points standings as he further established himself atop the IRL Rookie of the Year competition. The race was the biggest in Matsuura's career, as was the payday, as he took home $294,740 from the awards banquet, held on Monday in Indianapolis.
"It was a very long day, but I was competitive for 180 laps" Matsuura said. "I think I did a couple very good early starts, overtook maybe three or four cars. The conditions were pretty difficult, it was quite windy, and it was very difficult for us. I'm very disappointed because I could have finished in the top five, but I am happy because I get a lot of prize money!"
Another impressive rookie with experience in the Formula Renault category was Jeff Simmons, who got the last-minute opportunity to qualify for the 500 with Mo Nunn Racing. Simmons repaid the faith shown in him with a qualifying run that saw him quicker than his teammate despite the fact that Simmons had only spent the afternoon in the car.
Simmons was strong in the race as well, moving up from his 29th starting position up into the top ten to do battle with some of the biggest names in racing before the rains came, catching the young American racer out on his pit strategy and costing him a potential top-ten finish.
"I want to thank Pioneer and the entire Mo Nunn Racing team for the opportunity to be here today" Simmons said. "It was a great experience and we enjoyed a pretty good run. Never having driven more than 100 miles in a race before, it was important to finish. It was unfortunate that we could not catch Matsuura. The weather was so unpredictable and we knew the outcome would be a gamble. If the weather had held off, I think we could have caught him and a few others. Hopefully some of the team owners will take note of my performance and a full-time opportunity will present itself."
Renault Sport announced recently a realignment of its development-level categories which will create simplified ladder to Formula One, and will see the current Eurocup Formula Renault V6 platform continue to develop for the 2005 North American Formula Renault V6 Championship.
Round three of the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship will take place at the famed Watkins Glen circuit in New York on the weekend of June 18-20 as part of the Sahlen's 6 Hours of The Glen weekend.
The North American Formula Renault Championships are sanctioned by Grand American, and provide a ladder for drivers to develop their talent, with a full in-house open-wheel progression available. The series staged a successful first-ever race weekend in April at Phoenix International Raceway.
The Formula Renault V6 Championship is the top rung on the North American Formula Renault Championship ladder, which also includes the North American Formula Renault 1600 Championship and the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship. The Formula Renault V6 is expected to make its North American competition debut in the latter stages of the North American Formula Renault 2000 season in advance of the 2005 championship.