Mutoh successfully passes IndyCar Series rookie test
A few days after his first oval win in the Indy Pro Series at Kentucky Speedway, Super Aguri Panther driver Hideki Mutoh passed his IndyCar Series rookie test at Chicagoland Speedway, clearing the way for his IndyCar Series debut on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland.
Mutoh joined Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira at the 1.5-mile oval near Joliet, Ill., during a two-day test Aug. 14-15, and impressed series and team officials with his consistency and ability to grasp the changes of an IndyCar Series machine. Mutoh will join current Panther drivers Meira and Kosuke Matsuura to form a three-car effort for the 2007 season finale.
"It was a very productive two days and I was able to pass the rookie test," said Mutoh, who will drive the No. 60 Formula Dream Panther Dallara Honda. "I was able to learn how the changes affect the car and tried different car balances too. I am very happy that we were able to practice pit stops, and I now know what it's like. I enjoyed the test and I cannot wait for the Chicagoland race."
Team owner John Barnes, who has developed young IndyCar Series talent before - including former series and Indy 500 champions Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon - was especially impressed by the young Japanese driver.
"Hideki did unbelievably well in the test," Barnes said. "He continues to impress everybody at Panther with his ability to adapt to these race cars and our style of open-wheel racing. We tested a lot with him over the two days at Chicagoland. He didn't get to run in traffic, because there wasn't any, but we worked on pit stops, starts, restarts and in- and out-laps. We're training him to be a champion, and that takes a lot more than just going fast. I know he's excited, and we are too, about the opportunity to see him run an IndyCar Series race at Chicagoland."
IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch oversaw the test and was impressed with Mutoh.
"Hideki is one of the most talented young drivers I have seen in a while," Blanch said. "He's had the opportunity to drive the IndyCar Series car several times this season due to the bonus testing program. He's very consistent and provides very good feedback. He should do very well."