Panther's Hideki Mutoh Will Make IndyCar Series Debut in Chicago Indy Pro Series Star Will Join Matsuura, Meira in Third Car Effort INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 21, 2007) -- Super Aguri Panther Racing announced today that current Indy Pro Series ...
Panther's Hideki Mutoh Will Make IndyCar Series Debut in Chicago
Indy Pro Series Star Will Join Matsuura, Meira in Third Car Effort
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 21, 2007) -- Super Aguri Panther Racing announced today that current Indy Pro Series driver Hideki Mutoh will make his debut in the IndyCar Series in the final race of the season at Chicagoland Speedway. Mutoh will join current Panther drivers Kosuke Matsuura and Vitor Meira in the No. 60 Formula Dream Panther Dallara Honda for his first career race in the top level of American open-wheel racing.
"The entire Panther team is extremely excited to help Hideki Mutoh make his debut in the IndyCar Series at Chicago," team co-owner John Barnes said. "He's proved to all of us that he deserves this opportunity by the way he's performed in the Indy Pro Series and the way he's driven the IndyCar Series car during testing. Everybody here loves the way he approaches the sport mentally and the tenacity he's shown us on the racetrack. Hideki is a special driver who has a bright future in open-wheel racing, and we look forward to seeing him in a Panther car."
Mutoh has been a star this season in the Indy Pro Series, where he has collected six podium, eight Top Five and ten Top Ten finishes in just 11 starts. The 24-year-old driver scored his first career win in the series during race one of the Liberty Challenge earlier this year at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he started from the pole position and led the entire race to collect Panther's first win at the world's most recognized racetrack.
Mutoh is currently ranked second in the IPS championship driving the No. 55 Panther Indy Pro car. Last season he competed in the Formula Nippon Championship and the Super GT Championship, where he started from pole and won his final event at Fuji Speedway. Prior to 2006, Hideki raced in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship and was the 2003 Formula Dream champion.
"I'm very happy and excited about this opportunity to race for Super Aguri Panther Racing in the IndyCar Series," Mutoh said. "I have learned a lot this season in the Indy Pro Series and want to do well at Chicagoland. I have to thank John Barnes, Aguri Suzuki, the Honda Formula Dream Project and everybody at Super Aguri Panther Racing for giving me this chance -- it has been a goal of mine since I arrived in the United States. I also look forward to working with Vitor and Kosuke, who have been a big help to me as I adjust to this style of racing."
Blair Perschbacher, the race engineer on Mutoh's No. 55 car in the Indy Pro Series, will also be making the move to the IndyCar Series for the Chicagoland race in September. Perschbacher worked on the engineering staff with Tony Renna during the then-rookie's run in the 87th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and, most recently, was the race engineer with John Andretti's Indy 500 effort last May with Panther.
Mutoh's red and white No. 60 car will be sponsored by the Honda Formula Dream Project, a long-range program aimed at developing the talented drivers who compete in world-class racing events. Honda also plans to further develop programs under the Honda Formula Dream Project to train drivers in all categories of racing. The Project is implemented through the Suzuka Racing School (SRS-K, SRS-F), the Formula Challenge Japan ( FCJ), the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship, and Formula Nippon, with the aim of turning out skilled young racers like Takuma Sato and Kosuke Matsuura to compete in events worldwide.
"Since Hideki entered the Indy Pro Series this year, he has won a race and his results have been very impressive," Super Aguri Panther Racing Project Leader Aguri Suzuki said. "Although, the season is not over yet, we decided to give him an opportunity to race in final round of IndyCar Series in Chicagoland Speedway. He gained this chance by his good performance so I want him to enjoy the race."
Panther has a strong history at Chicagoland Speedway, where the team has won two IndyCar Series and one Indy Pro Series race. Not only has the team won the closest 1-2 finish in IndyCar Series history at the nearby 1.5-mile oval -- Sam Hornish Jr. over Al Unser Jr. in 2002 -- but Panther also won the closest 1-2-3 finish in league history at Chicagoland, when Hornish edged both Scott Dixon and Bryan Herta in one of the most thrilling races in series history.
Ironically, Mutoh has drawn comparisons to Hornish from his team owner.
"I've said it before this year, but Hideki does remind me of Sam (Hornish)," Barnes said in reference to the current Penske Racing driver, former Indianapolis 500 winner, and Panther's former two-time champion and 11-time race winner. "In racing, it's one thing to be fast, but Mutoh is mentally tough and he never quits in a racecar -- the same qualities that helped Hornish be so successful in the No. 4 car. I've seen it since day one with Hideki and he's proved that time and again on the racetrack this season."
Panther Racing has won 15 IndyCar Series races and was back-to-back league champions in 2001 and 2002. In addition, the team collected a league title in the Indy Pro Series in 2003 and has won eight races in just over a year of competition in the developmental series.
Mutoh will test an IndyCar Series car at Chicagoland Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Infineon Raceway prior to the race.
The race at Chicagoland Speedway will be held on Sunday, September 9th at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ABC with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio Channels 144 and 145.