2002 Champion da Matta Returns to the Champ Car Grid for 2005 INDIANAPOLIS (February 1, 2005) -- The return of 2002 Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta adds another familiar face on the grid in 2005 as he joins other Bridgestone Presents The...
2002 Champion da Matta Returns to the Champ Car Grid for 2005
INDIANAPOLIS (February 1, 2005) -- The return of 2002 Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta adds another familiar face on the grid in 2005 as he joins other Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series champions Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy, and Sebastien Bourdais, along with a highly-anticipated field full of talented drivers to compete for the title.
PKV Racing announced today that da Matta, 31, will team up with 1996 champion Jimmy Vasser in a two- car assault for the 2005 season. The Brazilian rejoins the Champ Car grid after making 28 starts in the Formula 1 World Championship in 2003 and 2004.
Da Matta joined the Champ Car ranks in 1999 and ranks second among active drivers with 11 Champ Car wins, seven poles, in 79 Champ Car starts. During his 2002 championship run, da Matta became the third driver to record a record-tying four consecutive wins during a single season. The Brazilian recorded seven races and seven poles en route to his first Champ Car championship and was named Driver of the Year for his champion campaign.
"I am very excited to be back in Champ Car," said da Matta just after the announcement was made at the PKV Racing shop. "This is a series that I have raced in the past and had not only good results, but lots of fun. It was an easy decision to come back to America after racing over in Europe for the past two years in Formula 1. I am excited to be associated with PKV Racing. They are a good team and their plans for the up coming season are strong. They have everything we need to run well and fight for the championship. They team has done a lot of work during the winter, so I am very impressed, but we still have a lot of work to do. Once that is accomplished, we'll be very competitive."
With experience and a championship under his belt, da Matta joins Vasser with a similar racing history in addition to their history as friends.
"Jimmy is a good friend of mine," da Matta stated when asked about teaming up with Vasser. "I respect him as a person and as a driver. He knows how to win and how to set up a car. I couldn't ask for a better teammate."
Vasser is equally excited to have da Matta back in Champ Car and as a teammate racing under the PKV Racing banner.
"We are very excited to have Cristiano in the team," stated Vasser. "I can tell you from experience that the most important thing in the success of a Champ Car team is chemistry and teamwork, and Cristiano has shown in the past that he is certainly capable of being a good teammate and a champion. And this really rounds us out now, PKV Racing, just under only one year old, a team of champions. The face of our team has completely changed and we are very excited to tackle the championship. I think that we're well-positioned to surprise a lot of people out there. I am really, really excited about working with Cristiano."
Team Manager Jim McGee, also a new addition to the team, feels that the friendship, respect, and determination these two drivers have will complete the team.
"These two guys, they are going to do what's best for the team because they know their success is going to be the success that we have on the team, not the individual's success that each guy would have," said McGee. "For me to have these two types of individuals driving for us, that's a huge benefit because it really brings the team concept together and it filters down through the engineering through the mechanics, through the truck drivers, everybody is working for the betterment of the team not any individual betterment, and so it really is; it's just what you want in an organization."
Co-Owner Dan Pettit also expressed his excitement about finalizing plans of what he believes to be a solid and very competitive team in 2005.
"I have to say we are all excited on behalf of myself and Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser. We are so excited to have Cristiano, and his presence here means a lot to us. We have been working very, very hard in putting together a team that can be a serious contender, and I think with your presence here, not only at PKV Racing, but also Champ Car, I think it gives the image that we have finally decided to be very strong and it also says that Champ Car is real. So thank you very much for joining our team and having the confidence in us."
Da Matta's love for Champ Car is more than words can say, and a trip to Formula 1 was an opportunity that could not be missed. However, he seems to be ecstatic to return to competitive driving in the United States.
"When I was here in 2002, I was 100% happy," stated da Matta about his leave for Formula 1. "I never wanted to race anything else, but Champ Car, at that time, was uncertain about its future. And at the same time, I had this opportunity to go and drive Formula 1 for a couple of years. So, that was the main reason why, and obviously having a chance to drive an F-1 car. I thought that this is my opportunity and I cannot miss it, but never because I thought it was better over there or if it was better to race or more fun or whatever."
"But I can say right now I think the direction that Champ Car has taken over this last year I think is the correct direction to go. I think with (Kevin) Kalkhoven showing how serious he is about this business, this series, by buying Cosworth and having such a great package TV package for the year, I think that all shows the people there in command of the series, they are here not just playing around. They are here seriously and they want to see this thing happen and see this series being as successful as it was in the past."
"So I see a good future for the series. In my eyes I see a good future of the series; otherwise, I wouldn't have any interest to come back here, too. I came back because I believe in the series, I believe in the true sport that the series is, and I think that this is the place to be."