CHAMPCAR/CART: Arciero-Wells Names Cristiano da Matta as Second Driver

CRISTIANO DA MATTA TO RACE FOR ARCIERO-WELLS CHAMPIONSHIP CAR TEAM IN 1999 FONTANA, Calif. (October 30, 1998) -- The Arciero-Wells Championship Auto Racing Team announced today it has signed Cristiano da Matta to drive for the MCI WorldCom...

CRISTIANO DA MATTA TO RACE FOR ARCIERO-WELLS CHAMPIONSHIP CAR TEAM IN 1999

FONTANA, Calif. (October 30, 1998) -- The Arciero-Wells Championship Auto Racing Team announced today it has signed Cristiano da Matta to drive for the MCI WorldCom Racing Team in the 1999 FedEx Championship season. Da Matta, who ran away with the 1998 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship, will drive the number 25 MCI WorldCom-sponsored Toyota-powered Champ Car. He teams with CART nine-year veteran Scott Pruett, who signed with Arciero-Wells in August to pilot the number 24 Pioneer Electronics-sponsored Toyota-powered entry.

"Da Matta is already known as a winning driver in the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship," said Cal Wells III, co-owner of the Arciero-Wells team. "He brings talent and youthful exuberance to our partnership with Toyota and MCI WorldCom. After testing him, it is clear that the chemistry between Cristiano, the engineers and the mechanics is a good fit. We are looking forward to next year with great anticipation. Our selection of Cristiano proves once again that CART's developmental series, the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship and the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship work."

"This season Cal Wells and his crew have made some major advances in their development program and we are looking forward to seeing what next season brings especially with Cristiano da Matta joining the team," said Andy Deas, director of MCI WorldCom Sports Marketing. "Cristiano embodies the same level of perseverance, professionalism and determination that the Arciero-Wells crew is known for and will be a great addition to the team."

"Cristiano has some large shoes to fill given the performance of past drivers by the Arciero-Wells team," said Les Unger, Toyota Motor Sales National Motorsports Manager. "We welcome him to the FedEx Championship Series and are confident he will more than meet our expectations."

Da Matta lived up to his role as the pre-season favorite to win this year's championship when he wrapped up the 1998 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship title two races before the end of the season. In da Matta's four wins this season at Long Beach, Nazareth, Trois Rivieres and Vancouver, he led every lap including sweeps from the pole at Nazareth, Trois Rivieres and Vancouver. His three poles have lead the series along with his four-win total, 239 laps led and eight podium finishes.

During 1997, da Matta won races at Nazareth, Vancouver and Laguna Seca, one pole position and a total of five podium finishes, and won the Indy Lights Rookie of the Year honors. In his two-year total, da Matta has won seven races in 26 starts and has finished on the podium 13 times. A native Brazilian, he won the 1994 Brazilian Formula Ford Championship.

Da Matta won his karting debut at Minas Gerais, Brazil at age 17. In 1994, his fourth year of karting, da Matta secured the championship before the season was over with four victories and four pole positions.

"First, it was an honor for me just to be considered for this position with all of the other great candidates," said Da Matta. "Then, even to reach the point of being tested was a privilege. When I worked with the Arciero-Wells Team in Homestead, I could see the fire in their eyes and their commitment to racing and winning. I knew this was the team I wanted to be on. It has always been my dream to drive in the FedEx Championship Series, and to do it with the backing of MCI WorldCom and Toyota is more than anyone can ask for. Having raced Indy Lights the last two years, I know what a great team the MCI WorldCom/Arciero-Wells/Toyota team is."

DA MATTA AT A GLANCE

1998

PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship, Tasman Motorsports Group/Team Medley, Lola. Won the series championship. Earned four victories; Long Beach, Nazareth, Trois Rivieres and Vancouver. Had three poles, led the series' laps by 239 and had a total of eight top-three podium finishes.

1997

PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship, Brian Stewart Racing/Team Medley, Lola. Finished third in drivers' championship. Claimed victories at Nazareth, Vancouver and Laguna Seca and earned one pole position at Vancouver.

1996

European Formula 3000 Championship, Pacific Racing, Lola. Finished eighth in drivers' championship. Best finish was fourth in Pau, France.

1995

British Formula Three Championship, West Surrey Racing, Dallara. Finished eighth in drivers' championship. Won at Outlon Park and posted eight top-ten finishes.

1994

Brazilian Formula Three Championship. Won drivers' championship. Claimed four victories and seven pole positions.

1993

Brazilian Formula Ford Championship. Won drivers' championship. Claimed four victories and four pole positions.

1992

Sao Paulo State B Category Karting Championship. Won drivers' championship.

Brazilian B Category Karting Championship. Finished second in drivers' championship.

1991

Brazilian Karting Championship-Novatos Category. Won drivers' championship and Minas Gerais State Championship.

1990 Minas Gerais State Championship-Novatos Category. Won drivers' championship.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Pruett , Cristiano da Matta