Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete a Long Day for Panther Meira Finishes 16th; Matsuura Taken Out By Simmons for Second Consecutive Race ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 1, 2007) -- A pair of incidents set back Panther Racing's drivers Sunday in the Honda...
Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete a Long Day for Panther
Meira Finishes 16th; Matsuura Taken Out By Simmons for Second Consecutive Race
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 1, 2007) -- A pair of incidents set back Panther Racing's drivers Sunday in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and despite the best efforts of the crew to help them gain positions, Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura finished 16th and 17th, respectively.
Meira was off and running during the early part of the Grand Prix, jumping two positions at the start and climbing to sixth place in the early stages. The Brazilian soon experienced a gearbox problem, which contributed to him sliding into the tire barrier in Turn Four. The car was towed to the pits and the Delphi Panther team changed the damaged front wing, switched out the gearbox and hand Meira back in the chase after losing only three laps. He was able to pick up one position, but could climb no higher than 16th on the final grid.
For Matsuura, the day was especially frustrating after being taken out on the first lap of the race by the same driver who ended his drive last weekend in Homestead. Jeff Simmons, who started 12th, was unable to get his car under control as cars were checking up entering the fourth turn of the track, and ran into Matsuura, damaging the Japanese driver's rear wing. The Super Aguri Panasonic Panther team took the car back to the garage and quickly repaired the damages. Despite his best efforts, Kosuke was only able to pick up one more spot and finished in the 17th position. Last weekend, Simmons lost control of his car on Lap 97 directly in front of Matsuura, crashing them both.
The next IndyCar Series event will be held at Twin Ring Motegi on Saturday, April 21st, with coverage provided by ESPN, the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio. Meira finished 10th at Motegi last season. For Matsuura, the race marks a return to his home country and a track where he has finished inside the Top Ten in each of his three starts. His best result came there last season, when he started sixth and finished in seventh place.
Mutoh Grabs Another Top Five Finish at St. Pete
Super Aguri Panther driver Hideki Mutoh continued his impressive run in his third start in the Indy Pro Series, where he finished fourth today in the 40-lap race. Mutoh, who finished second in yesterday's event, collected in third consecutive Top Five finish Sunday, which was his first non-podium result of the season. After starting in the fifth position -- the Top Six finishers from yesterday's race were inverted for the start -- Mutoh climbed as high as third before settling on his fourth place result.
The 24-year-old Japanese driver remains in second place in the championship standings, just 48 points behind points leader Alex Lloyd, winner of each of the series first three races.
Panther's Pro Series team has finished in the Top Five in 13 of its 14 career starts, the only non-Top Five result came at Gateway in 2003 when Mark Taylor was involved in an accident, but we still able to finish ninth. The Pro Series team has never had a result outside the Top Ten.
The next Pro Series event will be the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, May 25th.
"This weekend doesn't really show how good and how competitive this team is. We fixed a wing and a gearbox in three laps and from there the car was competitive. If we wouldn't have had the gearbox problem we would have finished Top Five again. This team is known for its ability to come back, and that's what we're going to do in Motegi."
"I am very upset about Jeff Simmons hitting me again today, it's two weeks in a row and not apologizing for what he did. I think it is very unfair and disrespectful. If it was my fault then I would apologize to him right away but it clearly was not my fault. All the driver should have respect for each other and I am disappointed in how he responded to me when I went to talk to him after the race. Overall, I am very thankful to my mechanics and all the team members for fixing my car so quickly and supporting me to finish the race. I want to refresh my mind and do my best in the next race in Japan."
"I am little disappointed in my result since I planned to move up more positions but I learned a lot from this weekend. It is still the second race event so I want to keep concentrating on learning the track and keep trying to move up the position in the race. I would like to thank my team for giving me a great car and support. Looking forward to the next race and do better."