Bob Stallings to field Vasser, da Matta at Laguna Seca

FULLY RECOVERED CHAMP CAR AND F1 VETERAN TO RETURN TO RACING MAY 17 WITH JIMMY VASSER DALLAS (April 26, 2008) -- Formula 1 veteran and former CART Champ Car Champion Cristiano da Matta -- who is set for his return to major league racing in...

FULLY RECOVERED CHAMP CAR AND F1 VETERAN TO RETURN TO RACING MAY 17 WITH JIMMY VASSER

DALLAS (April 26, 2008) -- Formula 1 veteran and former CART Champ Car Champion Cristiano da Matta -- who is set for his return to major league racing in the No. 98 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley at the upcoming Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 17 -- will be an in-studio guest on SPEED's popular Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain this Sunday, April 27, at 9 p.m. ET.

Da Matta, who is on-site at this weekend's Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway working with the GAINSCO team, will leave for SPEED's Charlotte studios soon after Sunday's race ends. The popular Brazilian driver has appeared on Wind Tunnel in the past, but this will be the first time he will join Despain as an in-studio guest.

"I like Wind Tunnel and I am looking forward to going to their studio," said da Matta, who will co-drive with friend and fellow CART Champ Car Champion Jimmy Vasser at Laguna Seca. "Leaving from Charlotte on Monday will also get me home to Miami sooner than my original flight from Raleigh, so we are going to work harder and get home sooner. That is how I like to do it."

Da Matta's comeback comes less than two years after sustaining critical injuries in a testing accident in a RuSPORT Champ Car at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on August 3, 2006, when he collided with a wandering deer at full speed. Da Matta suffered severe head injuries and after making it through the first critical days and nights after the accident, the 2002 CART Champ Car Champion persevered through several surgeries and months of grueling rehabilitation to literally rebuild himself back into racing shape. The Laguna Seca round will be the first race for da Matta since he finished second in the Grand Prix of San Jose Champ Car World Series race just days before his accident.

Da Matta and Vasser will race the No. 98 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, the same race car he used for his first test in March at Eagles Canyon raceway near Dallas. The GAINSCO team has used No. 98 as a test car the last couple of months -- always with No. 99 decals -- but the Pontiac Riley is race-prepped and ready to go for da Matta and Vasser at Laguna Seca. Both drivers, who are former teammates on the KV Racing IndyCar team, have won Champ Car races at Laguna Seca in the past and look forward to their first race together as co-drivers.

Da Matta's on-track comeback hasn't been the only major development in his life recently. He and longtime girlfriend Vanessa Franco were married in Brazil on April 2, and the newlyweds have relocated permanently to Miami. Vanessa, da Matta's parents Toninho and Maria da Matta and his brothers Gustavo and Felipe will be among a huge contingent of family and friends scheduled to attend the Laguna Seca race.

-credit: bsr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bob Stallings , Cristiano da Matta