Panther Partners with Super Aguri to Run Kosuke Matsuura in 2007 Former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Joins Vitor Meira for Two-Car Effort INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 6, 2006) -- Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced today a ...
Panther Partners with Super Aguri to Run Kosuke Matsuura in 2007
Former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Joins Vitor Meira for Two-Car Effort
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 6, 2006) -- Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced today a partnership with Super Aguri to run former Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Kosuke Matsuura during the 2007 season.
Super Aguri Panther Racing will field Matsuura in his familiar No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Honda Dallara alongside talented veteran Vitor Meira, who finished fifth in the championship standings last year. Matsuura earned both the Indy 500 and IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, and has collected 17 Top Ten finishes in an Indy-car career highlighted by a personal best finish of fourth place at Kentucky Speedway during his first season.
"We are absolutely thrilled with this partnership with Super Aguri and the opportunity to run Kosuke Matsuura in the IndyCar Series next season," Panther CEO and co-owner John Barnes said. "Kosuke is a great talent and we feel like we have the people to teach him how to finish what he does in his races. I'm excited to get him into the Panther way of life and watch him grow into the great racecar driver we know he is going to become. This is a great time for us; everybody here knows Super Aguri, Panasonic and Kosuke just made Panther Racing a much better team."
The 27-year-old Matsuura is originally from Aichi, Japan and entered the IndyCar Series after successful stints in the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup Championship and German Formula 3 Championship. Last season he finished 13th in the 2006 IndyCar Series standings, with a total of six Top Ten finishes and a best result of sixth at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I am very happy to have an opportunity to race in my fourth season in IndyCar Series and realize that it is a big responsibility," Kosuke Matsuura said. "Panther Racing has won a series championship in 2001 and 2002, so I am very thrilled to be able to join the champion team in this new partnership. I will do the very best and aim to win."
This marks the team's return to a two-car operation after spending 2006 as a single-car effort with Meira. Panther ran two cars during the 2004 season and as many as three entries during parts of the 2005 campaign. The team earned back-to-back series championships with Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 and 2002 and has collected 15 race victories in its nine-year history. In addition to Hornish, who was victorious 11 times in the Panther No. 4 car, the team has achieved race wins with Scott Goodyear (three times) and Tomas Scheckter (once, Texas 2005).
With the formation of Super Aguri Panther Racing, the team welcomes former Formula One driver Aguri Suzuki to the team. Suzuki, who became involved in the IndyCar Series in 2002, is one of Japan's most successful Grand Prix drivers and has been helping to promote young Japanese drivers through the ARTA (Autobacs Racing Team Aguri) Project. The driver development initiative was formed in 1997 and has been developing programs in different racing series' in Asia, Europe and the United States.
Regarding the new partnership with Panther Racing, Aguri Suzuki said "I am very happy and excited to be able to make a new entry in 2007 IRL IndyCar Series with Panther Racing as Super Aguri Panther Racing. Although it will be 4th season for Kosuke Matsuura, he has so much to learn from Panther Racing, which has won two Championships in the past. I believe Matsuura will show positive and dramatic change next season."
"Mr. Suzuki is an innovative member of the racing community and somebody that has accomplished a great deal in his career," Barnes said. "He and Kosuke are great additions to the Panther family. They've helped make our team a lot stronger this offseason."