Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) announced today that Dutch driver Robert Doornbos, 27, will join the team for the 2009 IndyCar Series (ICS) season. Details of the sponsorship will be announced at a later date.
While competing against NHLR in the Champ Car World Series in 2007 as a rookie, Doornbos finished on the podium five of the first six races including a win in Mont Tremblant, Canada. He went on to finish third in season standings to NHLR driver Sebastien Bourdais, who earned his fourth straight series title, and second place finisher Justin Wilson, who drove for the team in 2008. Most recently Doornbos competed in the China and New Zealand rounds of the 2008/2009 A1GP series and finished on the podium twice in the four races (sprint and feature race per round).
"I'm very happy and proud to get this chance to race with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing,” said Doornbos. “Racing in the IndyCar Series has been my biggest dream and especially to do it with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. The history of the team and the big success they have had in the past really attracted me and it makes me proud to become part of this winning team. Racing on the ovals should be very exciting. It will be tough, but I'm training as much as possible and am in good condition and ready to achieve results. I’m also excited to race in the legendary Indy 500. I really want to thank Mr. Haas and Mr. Lanigan for giving me this chance. I'm looking forward to the first race."
Doornbos initially pursued a professional career in tennis but once he was exposed to racing he changed vocations. He spent four seasons in various ladder series in Europe before he became the 2004 Rookie of the Year in the FIA International Formula 3000 series and finished third in series standings. That success led to becoming a test driver for two Formula One programs and he eventually made 11 Formula One starts during the 2005 and 2006 seasons for Minardi and Red Bull Racing, respectively before he moved to the Champ Car World Series in 2007. He planned to build on his Champ Car success in 2008 but the late reunification of open wheel racing before that season began forced him to put his plans of racing in the United States on hold until 2009.
"Mike and I are excited to add Robert to our lineup,” said Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. “He was a fierce competitor in Champ Car and we are hoping for the same in the IndyCar Series. He was able to quickly adapt to the new challenges in Champ Car which should bode well for the learning curve we will face in getting him acclimated to oval racing.”
The first test of the 2009 IndyCar Series season will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway on February 23-25 and will mark the first time for Doornbos to drive on an oval. The 2009 season will begin with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5. NHLR earned their first ICS victory, and 106th of 107 overall in the event last year while Rahal became the youngest winner in series history in his Indy car racing debut.
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