Indianapolis, Ind. (March 17, 2000) - Argentine Norberto Fontana will contest all 20 race events in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series campaigning the Della Penna Motorsports ...
Indianapolis, Ind. (March 17, 2000) - Argentine Norberto Fontana will contest all 20 race events in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series campaigning the Della Penna Motorsports #10 entry with backing from VideoMatch. Della Penna and Fontana made the announcement from their hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina late yesterday afternoon.
Richie Hearn, who has been with Della Penna Motorsports since 1994, will remain with the team. Della Penna hopes to secure additional funding for the American in an effort to expand to a two-car team.
"I am proud to have Norberto Fontana join Della Penna Motorsports," said Della Penna. "I have always wanted to field a fellow Argentine driver and have admired Norberto's talent for some time.
"While he only began testing with the team in early March, his ability to adjust to the car and bring it up to speed were very impressive. He still has a steep learning curve on the ovals, but I'm confident he will be a successful rookie standout in CART."
Fontana first tested with Della Penna Motorsports on March 1st and 2nd at Homestead's 2.21-mile road course posting the fastest time for the test of one minute, 48 seconds. He completed his CART rookie requirements on Homestead's 1.5-mile oval a few days later quickly getting down to a time of 27.4 seconds.
"I am very happy to be competing in CART, especially on a compatriot's team," said Fontana. "I'm confident that after a brief period of adjustment, especially on the ovals, I will be able to secure strong results. With Della Penna Motorsports, I believe I have a chance to fight for front positions."
In addition to a new driver, Della Penna also welcomes a new sponsor to the FedEx Championship Series. VideoMatch, a comedy variety show on Telefe, has been rated the number one television program in Argentina for the past ten years. Host Marcelo Tinelli and his show have been a supporter of Fontana since he began testing for Sauber's Formula One team in 1994.
"I admire Norberto Fontana and his racing talent," Tinelli said. "He has represented our company and country well in Europe for a number of years and I know he will be a great ambassador for us in CART as well."
While the team is excited for Fontana's rookie season, Della Penna is dismayed not to have secured a ride for long-time driver Richie Hearn.
"This has been a very difficult decision for me to make," Della Penna said. "Richie has been with us for a long time, but we had to do what was best for the team as a whole. This isn't what I wanted for Richie, but I've got to keep the team going and Richie has been well aware of situation."
Hearn captured the Toyota Atlantic Championship title with Della Penna Motorsports in 1995. Since entering CART in 1996, he has collected 16 top-ten finishes.
"I've been with John for a number of years, so this is definitely not an easy situation," Hearn said. "It came down to finding sponsorship. We've heard so much about the lack of American drivers in open-wheel racing, but in this case, an American sponsor wasn't willing to step up to the plate.
"It's going to be difficult to watch someone behind the wheel of a Della Penna Motorsports entry, but I'd rather Norberto have the seat than for John to have to close the doors. There are around 30 other people that John has to consider besides me."
Fontana will pilot the #10 Della Penna VideoMatch Toyota/Reynard in his first oval start for the Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota on Sunday, March 26.
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