IRL: Texas: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Indy 500 rookie of the year Takagi, teammate Giaffone head to Texas Motor Speedway for Bombardier 500 This weekend's Bombardier 500 on the Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval is the fifth event of Mo Nunn Racing's fourth season of...

Indy 500 rookie of the year Takagi, teammate Giaffone head to Texas Motor Speedway for Bombardier 500

This weekend's Bombardier 500 on the Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval is the fifth event of Mo Nunn Racing's fourth season of existence, which in 2003 is taking place exclusively in the IRL IndyCar Series with a two-car, Toyota-powered Panoz G force effort featuring 2001 IRL IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone and new teammate Tora Takagi, a Formula 1 and CART series veteran from Japan who most recently earned Bank One Rookie of the Year honors at the 87th Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

Two weekends ago, at the Indy 500, Takagi finished fifth from the inside-third-row starting position in his #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force and led two laps along the way to earning Rookie honors. Giaffone started from the inside-sixth-row position in his #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force but was out of the race by the sixth lap due to electrical problems. In a third team entry, Alex Barron, subbing for an injured Arie Luyendyk, was the fastest Bump Day qualifier in the #20 Meijer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force and finished sixth from the inside-ninth-row starting position. The 16 positions he picked up on race day was the biggest move among the 33 starters and earned MCI Long Distance award honors.

Season highlights thus far for the Mo Nunn driving duo include Giaffone's back-to-back third-place finishes at Phoenix and Japan's Twin Ring Motegi, the Phoenix run coming from his first career front-row qualifying performance, and Takagi's qualifying for the third starting spot at Motegi followed by his near flawless performance during the month of May in Indy.

In 2002, Mo Nunn Racing participated in both the IRL IndyCar and CART Champ Car series. Giaffone and the Hollywood-sponsored IRL IndyCar Series entry won the team's first-ever race at Kentucky enroute to fourth place in the 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 at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi to a 1989 Indy 500 victory and that year's CART title at Patrick Racing.

Team manager Peter Parrott is back for his second season with most of the Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing team from last year's 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, took over engineering duties for 2003 on the Giaffone car. Tom Vasi is crew chief. On the Pioneer side, David Cripps joined the team to engineer Takagi's car. Don Lambert is in his third year as Mo Nunn Racing crew chief on the Pioneer side.

#21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force

Felipe Giaffone, 28-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran, is in his third IRL IndyCar Series season in 2003 and his second with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend marks his fifth visit to Texas Motor Speedway. He finished fifth here with Mo Nunn Racing last June, and was the runner-up finisher in his very first visit here in 2001 with Treadway/Hubbard Racing enroute to IRL IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors.

The month of May did not turn out to be particularly kind to Giaffone. He fought handling problems through Pole Qualifying weekend at the 87th Indianapolis 500 and managed a starting position of only 16th. Despite a promising Race Day outlook, he was out of the race by Lap 6 after suffering terminal electrical problems.

Earlier this season, Giaffone drove to back-to-back third-place finishes at Phoenix and at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi. The finishes gave Giaffone seven top-three finishes in a 15-race stretch dating back to his runner-up finish at Nazareth in 2002. Giaffone started second at Phoenix and led 58 laps on the day. At the inaugural Japan event, Giaffone held onto third place despite losing fifth gear late in the race.

Giaffone is currently seventh in the IRL IndyCar Series driver standings with 93 points. He is currently ninth on the earnings list at $472,115 through four events. His 66 laps led this season ranks fourth among all series drivers.

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 Series 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 32 career IndyCar starts, Giaffone has 25 top-10 finishes, 13 top-fives, and the race win at Kentucky last season.

At the 2002 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.

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

FELIPE GIAFFONE

"I think it's going to be a very close race. It's a big track. Power is a big thing there, and I feel we are very confident because we know we have good power. It's going to be a big factor there. I think this year we're going to do well, but on the other hand, a lot of people are running Toyotas, so it's going to be close racing. I hope the G Force is the ticket because if we run strong at Texas, we'll be good for at least another five or six tracks later in the year. For me, it hurt to not score any points at Indy. If you look at what happened to us, it happened in the worst possible race because it's the Indy 500. That is the worst one because where you finish last you only get one point. I'm just pretending it never happened, that I never left Orlando. It was a shame because I knew the car would be good for the race after a tough week for qualifying. But I never got to prove it. Texas is a track where everybody really has to watch everybody and take good care of each other. Once you're racing, it's a lot of fun, but you just have to be very careful because it's very close racing. It's great for the fans, that's for sure."

TORA TAKAGI

#12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force

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

This weekend marks Takagi's first career race at Texas Motor Speedway, although he was in his debut season with Walker Racing when the CART series aborted its race weekend here in 2001. Takagi qualified at better than 230 mph that weekend.

Takagi is currently in a 10th-place tie with Michael Andretti in the IRL IndyCar Series driver standings with 80 points after his fifth-place finish and Bank One Rookie of the Year honors earned at last month's 87th Indianapolis 500. He is currently eighth on the earnings list at $496,515.

At the Indy 500, Takagi started seventh, finished fifth and led two laps enroute to Rookie honors. It was a solid month of May all around for the first-timer at the Brickyard. He was the top-finishing Indy 500 rookie among nine first-time starters in the 33-car field. In addition to leading two laps, Takagi posted the fourth-fastest practice time of the month at 232.007 mph, was the fastest car in practice three times in all, in the top three six times, and in the top seven every practice day but two.

At Japan's Twin Ring Motegi, Takagi qualified a season-high third and was running with the leaders until being penalized for leaving the pits with a broken fuel vent hose probe stuck in his car. He recovered to finish eighth. Takagi opened the season with a 12th-place finish at Homestead and second-lap race day crash while trying to avoid the spinning car of Gil de Ferran at Phoenix.

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 fourth 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.

Takagi 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 the eighth place here at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi in 2002.

TORA TAKAGI

"It is taking quite some time to get back to the 'real world' after the Indy 500. The Richmond open test is a big help to get me back to reality. After a good finish at Indy, and probably my most pressure-filled race of the year at Motegi, it will be like a fresh start to go racing at Texas and try to fight my way into the points race. I will need to try very hard to climb up in the championship. Thanks to the fifth place at Indy, now I am in a tie for 10th in the points with Michael (Andretti), and he is not running anymore. If we race every race like we did at Indy, I am sure we can move up in the points. The Pioneer/Mo Nunn team did a very good job all month at Indy. Now we go to a very interesting track. I was there two years ago when CART was supposed to race there and it was a very unusual track for me. I am sure with these IndyCars it will be very suitable for the track. They tell me the races at Texas are always exciting. Me and my crew will be ready to go."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing