Mark Taylor, the 2003 Infiniti Pro Series champion, passed his IRL IndyCar Series rookie test on December 4, with Panther Racing at Phoenix International Raceway.

Taylor, who won seven races in the No. 4 Fulmar/Panther entry en route to the championship, will team up with veteran Tomas Scheckter at Panther in 2004.

"It is obviously good to have my rookie test out of the way," said Taylor. "We had a number of stages to run here in Phoenix during the last two days and they all went smoothly.

"I ran a 60-lap straight run as did Tomas and our times were similar. I'm becoming very comfortable in the car now and can look forward to my first IRL race in Miami on 29th February," he concluded.

"Mark performed very well during his rookie test," said Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the IRL. "He was very smooth and consistent. The skills he learned on his way to winning the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship in 2003 have translated to the faster and more powerful IndyCar Series cars.

"His easy transition to the IndyCar Series cars proves that the Menards Infiniti Pro Series is doing its job as the official development series of the Indy Racing League," Barnhart added.

Meanwhile, Dan Wheldon, who won the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title with Andretti Green Racing, was a happy man after concluding two days of testing at the same circuit.

"Thursday was a good day," said Wheldon. "We continued working on some setup items that gave me a better feeling as to what I wanted the car to do. We definitely improved that, so that was very good. We also continued working strenuously with Honda on some things for 2004, and that really came a long way.

"Overall, it was really a very productive test. I think there was a lot that we learned. It seems crazy to say this, but the 2004 season is just around the corner, and this test should help us quite a bit in our quest to make sure that all of our cars at Andretti Green Racing are very competitive. This bit of work gives us a great baseline from which to start."

In addition to Scheckter, Taylor and Wheldon, IndyCar Series veteran Alex Barron and Menards Infiniti Pro Series veteran Ed Carpenter both tested for Red Bull Cheever Racing.

Scheckter, Taylor and Barron are expected to test again on December 5 along with rookie Kousuke Matsuura, who is scheduled to test for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing.



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