Super Aguri Fern?ndez Racing today announced that 24-year-old Kosuke Matsuura of Aichi, Japan, will pilot its #55 Panasonic ARTA Honda-powered Panoz G Force/Firestone entry in the 2004 IRL IndyCar Series.

Matsuura, a long-time member of the ARTA Project driver development programme founded by team co-owner Aguri Suzuki, has spent the past three years garnering attention through his racing efforts in Europe. He finished third in the 2003 Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, claiming three wins [Donington Park, Oschersleben and Estoril] and five additional podiums, including six consecutive podiums in the final rounds.

Matsuura also was a credible force in German Formula 3 competition, finishing second in the 2002 championship with two wins [Hockenheim and Zandvoort] and six pole positions.

"I have been supporting Kosuke Matsuura through the ARTA Project since he was competing in karts," said Suzuki. "He is very decisive and clever when driving, and he is very fast. I am looking forward to the first win for Super Aguri Fern?ndez Racing."

Co-owner Adri?n Fern?ndez was on hand when Matsuura turned his first laps in an IRL IndyCar Series car at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, and was immediately impressed: "I'm excited about the season. I was very impressed with what I saw and believe Kosuke is going to do a good job for us. Obviously, there will be things to learn, but I think he has what it takes to be very competitive."

Matsuura, who began his career in karts at the age of 14, will make his U.S. racing debut when the season gets underway on February 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It has been my dream to race in a top category and also in the United States," said Matsuura, "so I am very happy to be able to compete in the IndyCar Series. I am especially excited to race at the Indy Japan and the Indy 500. I will do my best to meet the team and the sponsors' expectations."

The 2004 season will mark the second year of IRL IndyCar Series competition for Super Aguri Fern?ndez Racing, which will continue its partnership with industry leaders Panasonic, Honda and Firestone. The team will once again be led by managing director Tom Anderson, co-owner of Fern?ndez Racing, with John Dick returning as race engineer and Steve Ragan as chief mechanic.

In addition to Matsuura, the other major change within the team is a switch to the Panoz G Force chassis, which emerged with dual crowns in 2003 - the IRL IndyCar Series Championship and the Indianapolis 500.

"We are very impressed with Kosuke's natural driving ability and appetite for speed," added Anderson. "Kosuke has had enough experience to understand the details of the sport, and has shown in his first three tests the ability to learn very quickly - a trait needed for success in the IndyCar Series. We have also seen Kosuke's larger than life personality in action, and believe this will be a great team motivator.

"We are excited to return for our second season in the IRL IndyCar Series with the continued support of Panasonic and Autobacs, and to continue our long-term relationship with both Honda and Firestone. It's going to be a really good season."



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