KVRT – Lotus kicks off 3-car effort in St. Pete

KV Racing Technology – Lotus is looking for a strong start to the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season beginning this weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 25-27, on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, FL.

KVRT – Lotus will field a full-time three car effort this season. Tony Kanaan, who signed with the team on Monday, will pilot the No. 82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus entry. Takuma Sato, will be campaigning his second season with the team and remains behind the wheel of the No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus machine. E. J. Viso, also in his second year with KVRT, but first in Lotus livery, will drive the No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus car.

“I believe that we have one of the strongest driver line-ups we have ever assembled," said KVRT – Lotus co-owner Jimmy Vasser. “I want to thank GEICO, PDVSA, Panasonic and all of our other partners for their support. This will be a very competitive season and I think that we can compete for podiums and race wins."

KVRT – Lotus General Manager Mark Johnson said, “I am very pleased with the way our pre-season program has gone. I am also extremely pleased with the job Team Manager Tom Wurtz and his entire staff have done. I think we are as ready to start a season as we have ever been."

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series Champion, is known as a consistent and fearless competitor. The 36-year-old Brazilian is entering his 14th season of major U. S. based open–wheel competition and 10th in the IndyCar Series (ran one IndyCar race in 2002). A perennial championship contender, Kanaan has made 225 career open-wheel starts earning 150 top-10 finishes including 94 top-five showings, 55 podium performances, 15 wins and 14 pole positions. His IndyCar record is even more impressive. In 132 starts, Kanaan has finished in the top-10 a remarkable 102 times, including 78 top-five showings, 49 podium performances, 14 wins and 10 poles. Last year, Kanaan finished sixth in the championship standings for the second consecutive year earning 13 top-10 finishes, with seven top-five showings, three podiums and one win (Iowa).

“Obviously I’m very excited for the season-opener this weekend at St. Petersburg with KVRT – Lotus and the No. 82 GEICO car," Kanaan said. “We had a shakedown test last Tuesday on the Homestead Speedway road course and it served its purpose well. I got to know my crew and engineers and log some laps around the track to get the feel for the car. Since we don’t race at that track, we weren’t trying to break any records, only making sure that everything was working properly and that everyone felt comfortable with each other. We also did some pit-stop practice and everything went pretty well. The goal in St. Pete is to do our best and bring the car home, not try to set the world on fire. We all need to be realistic and take one step at the time. Again I’d like to thank KVRT – Lotus for making this happen together with GEICO and my Brazilian sponsors. I’m sure that this partnership will be good for both sides and entertaining to all of my fans."

Sato, 34, known as “Taku", is one of the most recognized stars in Japan. A veteran of seven Formula 1 seasons, he will be contesting his second IndyCar season. Last year, despite minimal testing and having never driven an IndyCar, Taku earned one top-10 finish placing ninth at Edmonton. Sato qualified in the top-10 eight times reaching the Firestone Fast Six, the final round of road/street course qualifying, on three occasions with a best starting position of third at Mid-Ohio. His top oval finishes came in the final two races of the season including a best showing at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.

“The opening race of the season is always exciting," said Sato. “I can’t wait to get started for my second year of the series at St. Petersburg where there is a great atmosphere. Last year here was not a good experience for me, so hopefully this year turns out to be good. There is one thing that may be needless to say but with the dreadful recent disaster in Japan, I will race for my home country. I am very appreciative of everyone’s support and pleased to launch a supporting campaign entitled ‘With you Japan’. It’s going to be a long and tough season for both recovering Japan and my racing but I am very motivated for the challenges."

Viso, 25, a personable and outgoing Venezuelan will be contesting his fourth IndyCar season. In 2010, his first year with KVRT, Viso ran in the top-five in several events and earned his first career podium, a third at Iowa. He also led eight laps at St. Petersburg before retiring with a mechanical problem. Viso qualified in the top-ten five times and made the Firestone Fast Six at Edmonton, qualifying a season high sixth.

“I am very excited to be back at this track," said Viso. “The past three times that I have raced here I have been running in the top three until something happened, mostly mechanical. I am hoping this year we won’t have any of these problems. I also believe all the hard work that the KV Racing Technology – Lotus team put in over the winter will pay off. I feel we are going in the right direction and look forward to a good race at St. Pete this year."

Lotus Director of Motorsport Claudio Berro said, “For us last year was all about learning, this year we would really like to achieve some podium finishes – we want to start to contest with some of the front runners.

“We believe that we have one of the strongest driver line-ups on the grid with a great blend of experience, talent, enthusiasm and total commitment. I am convinced we have all the right ingredients in place to build upon our inaugural season and to make the necessary progress and ultimately enjoy success in the coming months and years."

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