IRL: Homestead: Mo Nunn Racing preview

TEAM NOTES * Mo Nunn Racing begins its fourth year of existence in 2003 and is participating exclusively in the IRL IndyCar Series with a two-car, Toyota-powered effort featuring 2001 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone and new teammate...

TEAM NOTES

* Mo Nunn Racing begins its fourth year of existence in 2003 and is participating exclusively in the IRL IndyCar Series with a two-car, Toyota-powered effort featuring 2001 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone and new teammate Tora Takagi, a Formula 1 and CART series veteran from Japan.

* In 2002, the team participated in both the IndyCar series and CART. Giaffone and the Hollywood-sponsored IndyCar entry won the team's first-ever race at Kentucky enroute to fourth place in the season-ending driver championship. On the CART side, the team's Pioneer-sponsored entry for third-year team driver Tony Kanaan netted two pole positions and a pair of podium finishes in 19 events.

* Morris Nunn founded the team just prior to the 2000 season after having spent the previous four years engineering Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi (twice) and Juan Pablo Montoya to consecutive CART series championships while at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi to a 1989 Indy 500 victory and that year's CART title while with Patrick Racing.

* The team campaigned a one-car, Hollywood-sponsored CART effort for Kanaan during its inaugural 2000 season. In 2001, Kanaan and Hollywood were joined by two-time series champion Alex Zanardi and Pioneer sponsorship on the CART circuit.

* At the 2002 Indianapolis 500, Mo Nunn Racing doubled up its effort with fulltime series competitor Giaffone being joined by Kanaan in a second Hollywood-sponsored entry. Giaffone and Kanaan were at or near the top of the timesheets in practice all month long, qualified fourth and fifth, respectively, and both had their moments at the front of the pack on race day. Kanaan was the fastest "rookie" qualifier in the 33-car field and led 23 laps before an ill-fated accident while leading, caused by the oil of Bruno Junqueira, put him out of the race. Giaffone, meanwhile, led 11 laps himself and saw his late-race pass of Helio Castroneves for the lead get foiled by lapped traffic. Giaffone went on to finish third.

* Second-year team manager Peter Parrott returns with most all of the Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing team from last year's impressive IndyCar series debut. Iain Watt, who engineered the team's CART entry in 2002 after working in recent years with Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta and Max Papis, takes over engineering duties in 2003 with the Giaffone car. Tom Vasi returns as crew chief. On the Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing side, David Cripps recently joined the team to engineer Takagi's car. Don Lambert returns for his third year as Mo Nunn Racing crew chief on the Pioneer side.

FELIPE GIAFFONE 21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force

* Felipe Giaffone, 28-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran, begins his third IRL IndyCar Series season in 2003 and his second with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing.

* The 2001 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year had an impressive inaugural season with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing in 2002, scoring his first career IndyCar win and the team's first-ever race win last August at Kentucky Speedway.

* He went on to finish fourth in the 2002 drivers championship with a solid run of 12 top-seven finishes in 15 events, including third at the Indianapolis 500, a runner-up finish at Nazareth, and two other third-place finishes at Richmond and Michigan.

* Giaffone's 2001 Rookie of the Year campaign at Treadway/Hubbard Racing included top-10 finishes in nine of his first 10 events. His best finishes included second at Texas in June and fourth-place runs at Homestead and Kansas.

* In 28 career IndyCar starts, Giaffone has 22 top-10 finishes, 11 top-fives, and the race win at Kentucky last season.

* At last season's Indianapolis 500, Giaffone qualified fourth and led 11 laps before seeing his late-race bid for the victory get ruined by lapped traffic. He went on to finish third.

* Engineering Giaffone's #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force is Iain Watt, who last year worked with Tony Kanaan and the Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing CART series entry. Watt also worked in recent years with Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta and Max Papis.

* In his two previous IndyCar visits to Homestead Miami Speedway, Giaffone qualified fourth, led one lap and finished fourth during his 2001 Rookie of the Year season with Treadway/Hubbard Racing, and he started 17th here last year and went on to finish seventh in his first race with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing in 2002.

* At the recent IRL IndyCar Series Test in the West sessions, Giaffone was fastest in both morning and afternoon sessions at California Speedway, second in both Friday sessions at Phoenix, and was third and fourth in the Saturday morning and afternoon sessions at Phoenix respectively.

* During this past offseason, Giaffone and his wife Alice moved from Indianapolis to Orlando, Fla.

FELIPE GIAFFONE

"It's time to go racing again, and being a driver, naturally I'm very excited for another new season. There seems to be something new every season. For me, last year, being with the Hollywood/Mo Nunn team was a new thing, and we had a very good season for a team running in the IndyCar series for the first time. This year, there is a lot more that is new. I have a teammate for the first time in a long time. We are now running the Toyota engine. And the (Panoz) G Force people have come out with a brand new car that I think will be their best one, yet. Having Tora (Takagi) for a teammate has been great in testing. That is why two-car teams have such an advantage. You can go off in different directions with your setup in testing, and in practice on race weekends, and you can work through things twice as quickly. We had some good tests, overall. I think we still have some improvements to make to find some extra downforce especially for the first weekend at Homestead. We're expecting some new pieces from G Force that hopefully will make us very competitive. But I know we'll be stronger everywhere else. Homestead is just such an unusual track for us. Another new thing for me is that I moved (to Orlando from Indianapolis) right after last season ended, so I'm in brand new surroundings. And this race at Homestead is now my home race. That, and the fact they're inviting all the Brazilian people in South Florida to come out and celebrate Canaval with us, is going to make all of us Brazilian drivers feel right at home."

TORA TAKAGI 12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force

* Formula 1 and CART series veteran Toranosuke (Tora) Takagi of Japan embarks on his inaugural IRL IndyCar Series season in 2003 and his first with the Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing team.

* The 29-year-old Takagi, who earned the nickname "Tiger" during his early days of open-wheel racing in his native Japan, spent the last two seasons driving the Pioneer-sponsored entry of Walker Racing on the CART circuit after spending three of the previous four seasons in Formula 1. Takagi recorded 11 top-10 CART finishes the past two seasons with season bests of third at Houston in 2001 and Chicago in 2002.

* After rising through the Formula Nippon Series and Japanese Formula 3 ranks, Takagi became a test driver for the Tyrrell F1 team in 1997, assumed one of its driving positions in 1998, then joined the Arrows F1 team in 1999. He drove to top-10 finishes four times in those two F1 seasons.

* Takagi switched to the Formula Nippon Series in 2000, winning eight of 10 races on his way to the series title before joining Walker Racing's CART effort in 2001.

* This weekend marks Takagi's first career race on the Homestead Miami Speedway oval. He made 13 oval starts in all during the past two seasons on the CART circuit. His best qualifying effort was third at Michigan in 2001, and his best finishes were fourth at Chicago in 2002, sixth at Rockingham, England in 2002 and Lausitz, Germany in 2001, and eighth at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi in 2002.

* At the recent IRL IndyCar Series Test in the West sessions, Takagi was fourth- and seventh-fastest in the Tuesday morning and afternoon sessions at California Speedway, 13th- and eighth-fastest in the Friday morning and afternoon sessions at Phoenix, and seventh- and eighth-fastest Saturday morning and afternoon at Phoenix.

TORA TAKAGI

"I am very happy to be here in the IRL with Mo Nunn Racing, thanks to Toyota, Pioneer, Denso and Togo support. We started working together Jan. 9 and spent quite a few days in Indy getting used to the team before the open tests. As a result of this effort to get to know each other in January, the open tests were all productive. And we benefited from being a two car team. This is something common to my teammate Felipe as he and I were only with one-car teams the last two years. If you are running alone, you don't know if you are doing the right things or not. But, we now can see what is the right direction. We can try different settings and can acquire double the data at the same time, which is good. We did not experience any serious mechanical troubles in the tests with both chassis and engines, and these facts show how the Pioneer team and TRD USA prepare the cars well. We are now faced with the fact that we still need some more speed to match the Dallaras at Homestead, but I am confident that my engineering group will sort it out in time. This is the beginning of my third season in U.S. and I am ready for some good results. And I am confident that this team, in this league, is the right place to be."

-mnr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing