Cristiano da Matta will make the second appearance of an interrupted comeback in the Grand-Am Rolex Series at this season's final round, having agreed terms to join the front-running AIM Autosport squad for the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 at Miller Motorsport Park.
The Brazilian, who made a one-off outing in a second GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Riley alongside Jimmy Vasser earlier this year, has been out of top-line racing since a fateful meeting with a deer during Champ Car testing at Road America in 2006 left him in a coma. However, AIM has decided to add him to its race-winning line-up of Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins for the season finale.
“It is quite amazing to have Cristiano in the car," Frisselle commented, "Growing up, I always admired Formula One and had that as a goal. To be driving alongside a former F1 driver is really very exciting. This is a real step forward for the team.”
The entire AIM operation, despite winning back-to-back races this year, has admitted that it expects to learn from da Matta's wealth of technical and set-up expertise and race craft.
“Excitement aside, I expect we can learn a lot from having someone with Cristiano's vast experience in the car and in the pit," Wilkins confirmed, "I have to say, though, that it is a thrill to be teamed with a champion driver in what is an important race for us.”
da Matta first came to the attention of America in the CART series in 1999, having previously plied his trade both in his native Brazil and, up to F3000 level, in Britain and Europe. Unable to break into F1 at that point, however, he transferred to the original Indy Lights series and then, over seven seasons, compiled 101 starts and twelve wins in Champ Car. That led to him joining Toyota in Formula One in 2003, where he scored ten championship points in two seasons before returning to Champ Car chastened by the experience.
“I am very happy to be with AIM Autosport for the final race,” da Matta said from his home in Brazil, “The team has been very strong all season and I am looking forward to driving with Mark and Brian. I think it will be a lot of fun to run with drivers who have such focus.”
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