The Champ Car field for the 2003 season opening event in St Petersburg has been swelled to 19 with the official announcement that racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi and business partner James Dingman have joined forces with Conquest Racing to run Portuguese rookie Tiago Monteiro this year.

Fourteen years after giving Patrick Racing its first and only Champ Car World Series title, Emerson Fittipaldi will look to capture a championship of his own as he and business partner James Dingman announced the formation of Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing on Monday.

Fittipaldi, who won the 1989 CART championship to go with a pair of Formula 1 titles earned in the 1970's, will look to become the only person to win a Champ Car title as a driver and an owner as he and Dingman become the 19th entrants to race in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

After his retirement as a driver in 1996, Fittipaldi stayed close to the series, serving as the promoter for the CART race in Rio and also holding the series television rights in Brazil, where viewership surpasses that of the United States.

"I am very proud to return to Champ Car racing at a time when the sport is in the midst of its most significant turnaround in history under the leadership of Chris Pook," said Fittipaldi. "This time however, I will race as a team owner, in a partnership with James Dingman. I have known the Dingmans through James' father, Michael Dingman, for several years and I am confident that this partnership will be successful on and off the track."

As expected, the team will run a singleton Reynard-Ford with Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro at the wheel. Monteiro comes to Champ Cars after racing in the FIA International F3000 Championship last season, running as a teammate to Newman/Haas driver Sebastien Bourdais. He spent the three years prior to last season in the French Formula 3 Series, and ran a Formula 1 test with Renault after his F3000 campaign.

"We are excited about all of our teams for the 2003 season, but are especially pleased about having one of our former champions back in the series with Emerson owning a team," said Champ Car President and CEO Christopher R. Pook. "He and his team will provide even more excitement for Champ Car fans in 2003."

The team will be run out of the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing headquarters in Indianapolis, as the team has entered a partnership with the Eric Bachelart-owned team that will run its first Champ Car season with Mario Haberfeld at the wheel.

The team will start the season with one fully funded car, but is still in discussions and looking for long-term primary sponsors for the 2003 season and beyond. Furthermore, in their continued efforts to provide marketing and branding support for their future sponsors, Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing's strategy is to not only run a second car later this season, but to run a two-car team starting in the 2004 campaign.

Dingman will use his business acumen to help the team achieve that goal, as the 29-year-old financier will concentrate his efforts on the off-track search for new business relationships.

"I am very excited to help Emerson win his first championship as an owner," Dingman said. "But we are also excited to use CART's new business model and the opportunities it presents to help us build business-to-business relationships. "We will also capitalize on our new position as team owners and the exposure that comes with the new Champ Car television package to aid our charitable foundation that helps in the educational pursuits of inner-city children."

The Fittipaldi-Dingman squad did not run at last week's Champ Car Spring Training but the team and Monteiro were all on hand to get the lay of the land. The team will hit the track for their first Champ Car race on February 23rd when the 2003 season fires up with the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of the Florida city.