Featuring the two-time defending Indianapolis 500 champion and seven other past Indy Racing League (IRL) or CART winners, Toyota's 2003 IndyCar Series line-upshould ensure a strong run in the manufacturer's quest for its first Indianapolis 500 victory and an IRL championship.
Five teams - Kelley Racing, Marlboro Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Mo Nunn Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises - will field at least nine total Toyota-powered entries this season.
"We believe that we have a terrific line-up of driversand teams for 2003," said Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports and the president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A. "I think the high quality our group of teams and drivers is due, in large part, to offering a tremendously competitive engine at an affordable price with strong track support. We're thrilled to have nine proven race-winners scheduled to drive Toyota-powered cars this year. It should be an incredibly competitive and exciting season."
Heading into the Test in the West, the new Toyota Indy V8 has logged more than 4000 miles during off-season testing in preparation for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 2.
Leading the charge will be two-time defending Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and two-time CART champion Gil de Ferran, of Marlboro Team Penske. Castroneves and de Ferran combined to win four of last year's 15 IRL events during their first season in the series with Roger Penske's team. Castroneves placed second overall, while de Ferran finished third. Each is back for their second IRL season and will campaign Toyota Dallara's.
Two past series champions will becampaign a pair of Toyota-powered Dallaras for Kelley Racing. Scott Sharp, the 1996 IRL champion, will drive the Delphi Toyota, while two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. will drive a Corteco-sponsored entry. Each is an IndyCar Series winner. KelleyRacing was the first team to sign with Toyota's IRL program last year.
One cannot talk about Toyota's open-wheel racing program without mentioning long-time partner Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The team has expanded its IRL program to two Toyota-powered Panoz G-Force cars this year and will feature a pair of 22-year-old hot shoes: Scott Dixon and Tomas Scheckter.
Dixon is a former CART Rookie of the Year and the youngest race winner in major open-wheel history. Scheckter took the IRL by storm in his rookie season a year ago by constantly running up front and earning his first victory at Michigan Speedway. The son of former F1 World Champion Jodi Scheckter, he was second in the IRL with three pole positions and third in laps lead, including a race-high 85 at the Indianapolis 500.
Mo Nunn Racing's first-year IRL program was the surprise of the IRL ranks a year ago. Driver Felipe Giaffone established himself as a legitimate IndyCar Series contender in 2002, earning his first IndyCar victory on the way to fourth-place in the championship in his Hollywood-sponsored Panoz G-Force. The team has expanded to a second car this season with former F1 and CART pilot Tora Takagi in a Pioneer Electronics-sponsored Toyota Panoz G-Force. Takagi, a former Formula One driver, dominated the Japanese Formula Nippon series in 2000 with a record-setting eight victories in 10 races before moving into CART in 2001.
The most recent addition to the Toyota ranks is racing legend A.J.Foyt and his A.J. Foyt Enterprises team. The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner will campaign a Toyota-powered Panoz G Force for his grand-son, A.J. Foyt IV, the reigning Infiniti Pro Series champion with four race victories last season. The younger Foyt will turn 19 years old on May 25, the scheduled running for what may be his first Indianapolis 500. He'll be joined by veteran Shigeaki Hattori for the season's first four events in the Epson Toyota.
The Toyota Indy V8 is an all-new engine designed from a "clean sheet of paper" for competition in the IRL. It was designed, built and developed by Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A. in its 47,000-square-foot Costa Mesa,Calif., facility. The engine began dynamometer testing in February 2002 and ran its first official on-track test in August 2002 at the Kentucky Speedway with Castroneves behind the wheel.