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Pantano and de Oliveira line up for Motegi

12 September 2011

Dreyer & Reinbold have stuck with Giorgio Pantano for the next IndyCar race on Motegi's road course, after having fielded the Italian former F1 driver and GP2 champion for the last two street course events.

Pantano will continue to drive the #22 entry for the final Indy Japan, sitting in for Justin Wilson who is sidelined for the rest of the season with the back injury he sustained at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

"Giorgio did a fantastic job for us in Sonoma and Baltimore and we believe he will be really strong around the Japan road course," said team co-owner Dennis Reinbold. "We couldn't be any happier about putting Giorgio back in our car for the race and having him represent Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and [sponsors] Kona Deep."

"The last two races were really strong for us and I'm looking forward to running with the team again in Japan," said Pantano, who was happy to be making the trip to Japan. "I'm here to do the best that I can as always and I look forward to the chance to compete."

Pantano will be joined on the grid at Motegi by 2010 Formula Nippon champion Joao Paulo de Oliveira, who will be driving the #34 Ceremony Conquest Racing car in place of Sebastian Saavedra, who meanwhile said he was "working very hard on finding the right funding to at least do Vegas."

The 30-year-old Brazilian driver might be making his IndyCar debut, but he has invaluable experience of competing on the Motegi road course - unlike anyone else in the IndyCar field, who have been used to the oval speedway track at the Twin-Ring.

"Motegi is a very smooth and technical track," said de Oliveira. "It's quite demanding on the brakes as well. It's mostly slow corners followed by long straights, so you need to make sure you get the most out of braking without compromising corner exits."

De Oliveira will still need to adjust from the Formula Nippon car - Swift Engineering chassis, Bridgestone tyres, 3400cc V8 Honda and Toyota delivering 600 horsepower - to the heavier and much older Dallara chassis and 3.5-litre normally-aspirated V8 Honda engine currently used by IndyCar.

"I won't change my approach. I need to learn the limits of the car and then know how to get the most of it by qualifying," said de Oliveira, who said he was delighted that the right opportunity to break into the US motorsport scene had come up at last

In motorsports, you must be ready whenever something shows up and I feel like this came up in the right moment," he said. "Right now, I'm focusing only on this race and trying to deliver a good result to the team ... I'll take one step at a time."

While it's proven to be an opportunity for road course racers like Pantano and de Oliveira, the shift from the oval to the 2.98-mile, 14-turn clockwise natural-terrain road course for the final outing for IndyCar in Japan was enforced by the 9.0 earthquake in March earlier this year, which had left engineers with concerns about the structural integrity of the oval track.

There have also been concerns in some motorsports areas (especially MotoGP) about travelling to the area at all, after the meltdowns at nuclear reactors at nearby Fukushima,

"I don't think it's great," admitted Danica Patrick last week. "I don't want to make anyone mad but heck, yeah, I'm concerned!"

But Japanese driver Takuma Sato dismissed any anxieties anyone might have about the forthcoming event. "I have no hesitation to race at Twin Ring Motegi or in Japan. None," he said. "The entire country has come together to rebuild and make the country safe for all its countrymen and visitors."

Indianapolis Motor Speedway medical director Dr. Terry Trammel reported to the drivers and organisers that the radiation in the area was less than a sixth of that received by someone having a CT scan.

FIM - MotoGP's governing body, reassuring riders who had been publicly talking of boycotting the forthcoming motor cycling event - recently produced a report concluding that Rome has almost three times the radiation level as Motegi over a one-week period. F1 has no such concerns, as Suzuka is on the South Island at the opposite end of Japan for the forthcoming Grand Prix.

"Countless hours have been spent to ready the facility to race on the road course and I hope everyone looks forward to a safe and competitive event," said Sato. "I could not be happier to be part of the event with my fellow drivers and IndyCar race teams."

Sato will be joined on the grid by compatriot Hideki Mutoh, who will be driving the #17 AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports.


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