TORRANCE, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2001) - Coming off its best-ever season with five victories and seven pole positions in 2000, Toyota has reloaded with an eye on bigger and better things in 2001. Five CART winners and three rising young champions from...
TORRANCE, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2001) - Coming off its best-ever season with five victories and seven pole positions in 2000, Toyota has reloaded with an eye on bigger and better things in 2001.
Five CART winners and three rising young champions from the world's top development series give Toyota high hopes for gaining its first CART Manufacturers Championship.
"We experienced a break-out season a year ago in winning five races and seven pole positions," said Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports. "This year, we think we've assembled the right mix of winning teams and talented drivers to contend for our first CART Manufacturer's Championship."
After earning the first-ever Toyota Champ Car win last season at Milwaukee among four 2000 victories, Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns for its second season with Toyota power featuring two of the most highly acclaimed rookies to enter the CART ranks in 2001.
Twenty-three-year-old Bruno Junqueira comes to CART fresh off of winning the prestigious FIA Formula 3000 championship a year ago. As did his predecessor at Ganassi - Juan Montoya - Junqueira also served as the test driver for the Williams Formula One team. He is joined by former F3000 rival and 2000 series runner-up Nicolas Minassian. Between the pair, they won seven of 12 FIA F3000 races last year, with Junqueira winning four to Minassian's three.
Joining Target Chip Ganassi among the four most victorious teams in CART history are two outfits new to the Toyota ranks in 2001 - Newman/Haas Racing and Patrick Racing.
Newman-Haas, with 58 CART wins under its belt, will feature a pair of Brazilians - Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi. Da Matta will be in his first year with the team and his third with Toyota power. He earned his initial CART victory last year at Chicago and finished in the top 10 for the first time in his two-year career. Fittipaldi closed out the 2000 campaign with a win at the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway; he enters his seventh Champ Car season in 2001 - his sixth with Newman-Haas.
Patrick Racing will sport two veteran drivers in Jimmy Vasser and Roberto Moreno. Vasser, the 1996 CART champion, campaigned a Toyota-powered Lola a year ago with Target Chip Ganassi and finished sixth overall in points, including a victory at Houston. He is joined by the former "Super Sub" Roberto Moreno, who earned his first career win from the pole at Cleveland in 2000 and finished third overall last season in the FedEx Championship Series.
The PacWest Racing Group also joins Toyota in 2001. The two-car team will feature a past CART winner in Mauricio Gugelmin and the reigning Indy Lights champion, Scott Dixon. The 20-year-old Dixon won six of 12 Lights races a year ago and became the first driver in the series' history to win races on all four types of tracks - superspeedways, short ovals, permanent road courses and street courses.
The Walker Racing and driver Tora (Tiger) Takagi round out the Toyota stable for 2001. The Walker team will be looking to make Takagi the fourth different driver they have put into a Champ Car winner's circle. With Takagi, they will campaign the Japanese Formula Nippon (F3000) champion who set every series record a year ago with eight victories in 10 races.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A., based in Costa Mesa, Calif., provides the only U.S.-designed and built engine in Champ Car racing with the latest version Toyota RV8F. A year ago, the TRD-built Toyota RV8E became the first U.S.-designed and built engine to win a CART race since 1981.