INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 29, 2000 - Walker Racing owner Derrick Walker announced today that Japanese champion driver Toranosuke (Tora) Takagi has been signed to drive for his CART team in the 2001 race season. Also new for 2001 is the addition...
INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 29, 2000 - Walker Racing owner Derrick Walker announced today that Japanese champion driver Toranosuke (Tora) Takagi has been signed to drive for his CART team in the 2001 race season. Also new for 2001 is the addition of Pioneer Electronics as the primary sponsor accompanied by a Toyota-powerplant for the No. 5 car which will run on Firestone tires. Takagi, who goes by the nickname "Tora" (meaning "tiger") is a 26-year old native of Shizuoka, Japan and is the reigning Formula Nippon Series Champion, winning an unprecedented eight out of ten races in 2000. Derrick is a ten-year veteran owner in the CART FedEx Championship series. His race team has racked up four race wins, ten pole positions, and six top-ten finishes in the points standings so far. Derrick has campaigned four Japanese drivers to date in the CART series, beginning with Hiro Matsushita in 1993, Naoki Hattori in 1999, Shinji Nakano in 2000 and Tora Takagi in 2001. "The 2001 season is an important year for us," said owner Derrick Walker. "We're very pleased to be forming new relationships with the Toyota and Pioneer Electronics. Both companies are committed to winning in the CART FedEx Championship Series. To compliment this new partnership we have a bright young star from Japan in Tora, and we're very keen to get started with our new program." "Pioneer is a passionate, high-technology company and we're thrilled to be part of this passionate, high-technology racing team," said Ed Sachs, executive vice president of Pioneer's Car Electronics Division. "The combination of Walker Racing, Toyota and Pioneer -- with newcomer Tora Takagi as our driver -- will be a powerful force in the 2001 racing season. By bringing new blood and new innovations to the sport, we will create excitement among the tremendous fan base and show the true spirit of CART racing." Toyota-powered cars won five races, seven pole positions and led a series-high 1017 laps in the 2000 CART FedEx Championship series season. "I was truly delighted to hear that an excellent team like Walker Racing had decided to power its racing endeavor with Toyota engines," said Mr. Tsutomu Tomita, Board Member and Director of the Toyota Motor Corporation. "This development is fine testimony to the high level of competitiveness and performance that our engine has attained, and we deeply appreciate Walker Racing's recognition of Toyota's technical prowess. We are also excited that Japanese racing hero Toranosuke has signed with the team. He is young and very talented, and I am confident that he will prove his ability in due course. Toyota pledges to support Walker Racing and Toranosuke to the fullest." Tora is no stranger to world-championship caliber racing as he also has three years of Formula One experience, first as a test driver for Tyrrell in 1997, Tyrrell's regular F1 driver in 1998 and then for the Arrows team in 1999. "I am very happy to be joining Walker Racing and the CART series," Tora said. "It will be my first experience with oval tracks in CART, so I'll be learning them as well as the CART car. I have much experience and confidence on street and road courses and I will try to drive them to my full capabilities from the very beginning. I cannot wait for my first test in January." "We are thrilled to add a proven winner in Walker Racing," said Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of Motorsports. "It's also exciting to have another young champion like Tora Takagi join the Toyota ranks, as well."
<pre> Toranosuke (Tora) Takagi Biography
Birthdate February 12, 1974 Birthplace Shizuoka, Japan Marital Status Single (Engaged to Yumiko) Height 5'9" Weight 135 lb.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS 1987 Japanese A2 National Kart Series (8th) 1988 Japanese A2 National Kart Series (4th) 1989 Japanese A2 National Kart Series Champion 1990 Japanese A2 National Kart Series Champion (won every race) 1991 Japanese FA Class Kart Series (2nd) 1992 Formula Toyota (2 wins) 1993 Japanese F3 Championship Series (10th) 1994 Japanese F3 Championship Series (5th) 1995 Japanese F3 Championship Series (2nd, 3 wins) 1996 Japanese Formula Nippon Series (4th, 2 wins) 1997 Japanese Formula Nippon Series (6th, 1 win) Official test driver for Tyrrell F1 team Porsche Super Cup 1998 Formula One Driver for Tyrrell, best finishes of 9th in Italy and Great Britain 1999 Formula One Driver for Arrows, best finish of 7th in Melbourne and 8th in Brazil 2000 Japanese Formula Nippon Series Champion (8 wins) 2001 Walker Racing driver in the FedEx Championship Series
</pre> Toranosuke (To-ron-o-ske) Takagi was born in Shizuoka, Japan on Feb. 12, 1974. His love of racing was something that was a part of his life almost from the day he was born. "My father Masami was a touring car racer. Before I could even think for myself, I was already spending weekends at the racetrack. My parents have the photographs to prove it! So it was quite natural that I started to think about driving the car myself." Toranosuke started racing go-karts at the age of 12, which was the earliest age at which he could get a competition license in Japan. He competed in the Japanese National Karting Series for two years (1987 and 1988) before becoming the series champion in 1989. Toranosuke followed up on his initial championship in 1989 by becoming a two-time National Karting Champion in 1990, when he won every race in the series. The young racer graduated to Formula Toyota cars at the age of 18, where he won two races in his very first season. In 1993, Toranosuke moved up to Formula 3, improving on his standing every year he raced, 10th place in his rookie year, then to fifth in 1994, and to second place overall in 1995 with three wins. Toranosuke's skills and driving style helped him gain the nickname Tora (the tiger) that has stayed with him through his move up through the racing ranks. 1996 saw Tora move up to the Japanese Formula Nippon Series, where he finished in 4th place for the season, posting two race wins. The following year, Tora had the biggest opportunity of his life. His mentor Satoru Nakajima was friends with Ken Tyrrell and arranged a Formula One test for Tora. He was very quick from his very first outing on the track and won a spot as Tyrrell's test driver. In 1998, Tora graduated to a regular spot as an F1 driver on the Tyrrell team. His best finishes of the season were a pair of ninth-place finishes at Silverstone and Monza. Tora switched to the Arrows F1 team in 1999 and once again had two top-ten finishes, 8th at Sao Paulo and 7th at Melbourne. At the end of the season, Tora made a difficult decision to leave Formula One for the time being and moved to the Japanese Formula Nippon Series in 2000. "I struggled with the performance of the car in F1, but the difficulties on the track helped me gain superior concentration skills in my racing. The results from what I learned in F1 showed themselves in Formula Nippon as we had 6 pole positions, 8 wins and the maximum points ever gained in a championship battle. These are all-time records in the series, and I am proud of my accomplishments." After his dominating performance in Formula Nippon, Tora decided to focus on a new goal for 2001. He joins the Walker Racing CART FedEx Championship team for 2001 with the support of Pioneer and Toyota. "I am very happy to be joining Walker Racing and the CART series," Tora said. "It will be my first experience with oval tracks in CART, so I'll be very focused on learning them as well as learning the CART car. I have much experience and confidence on street and road courses and I will try to drive them to my full capabilities from the very beginning. I cannot wait for my first test in January."
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