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International PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship Set For Aruba

29 September 1999

International PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship Set For Aruba

    SEROE, Colo.--The PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship will bring world-class open-wheel auto racing to Latin America and the Caribbean next year when the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) sanctioned series runs a race during the inaugural season of competition at the new Aruba Motorsports Complex.

    The Indy Lights race, which will close the series' 2000 season, was confirmed today by Ralph A. Sanchez President of Motorsports Americas, Inc., who joined officials from the Island of Aruba., CART and Indy Lights in making the announcement during ground-breaking ceremonies on the site of the new facility.

    Completing its 14th year of operation in 1999, the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship is internationally recognized as one of the most competitive open-wheel series in the world. Drivers who have raced and won in Indy Lights include some of the top names in CART. Over one-third of the drivers competing in CART's FedEx Championship Series Champ Car division have also made their mark in Indy Lights. The list includes Paul Tracy (1990 Indy Lights Champion), Adrian Fernandez (1992 Indy Lights Rookie of the Year), Bryan Herta (1993 Indy Lights Champion), Greg Moore (1995 Indy Lights champion), PJ Jones and Brazilians Tony Kanaan (1997 Indy Lights champion,) Cristiano da Matta (1998 Indy Lights champion) and Helio Castro-Neves.
    A spec (short for specification) series, Indy Lights emphasizes driverskill and team preparation through the use of identical equipment. Teams and drivers race state-of-the-art Lola T97/20 chassis powered by 425-horsepower GM V6 engines which are leased from the series. Modifications to the non-turbocharged engines are not permitted to further equalize the competition. All competing races cars are fitted with low-profile Dayton Daytona racing tires while PPG supplies a line of eye-catching paint that makes Indy Lights one of the most colorful series in motorsports. In total, Indy Lights race cars, which can reach a top speed in excess of 190 mph, are only about 25% smaller than the CART Champ Cars they resemble.

    In 1999, drivers from 10 different countries have raced in Indy Lights. Oriol Servia, a 25-year old from the Catalonia region of Spain, has led the championship since June. Servia's strongest title threat is his teammate Casey Mears, the 21 year-old-nephew of four time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and son of Off-Road racing champion Roger Mears. Other 1999 standouts include Austrian veteran Philipp Peter, 19-year-old New Zealander Scott Dixon, American Geoff Boss, Mexico's Mario Dominquez, the Brazilian duo of Airton Dare and Felipe Giaffone and Irishmen Derek Higgins and Jonny Kane.

    The Indy Lights event in Aruba also reunites the series with Sanchez who has hosted Indy Lights races at his various Florida racing venues over the years.

    "Ralph Sanchez is one of the most respected event organizer in motorsports and we at the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship are proud of the role we will play in his return to the ranks of major league auto racing promotion," said Indy Lights President Roger Bailey. "Along with our colleagues at CART, the inaugural race at Aruba Motorsport Complex will mark the fourth different venue we have visited under Ralph's direct management. His various races in Miami over the last two decades have been first class operations from start to finish, and I can guarantee that Aruba will provide more of the same."

    Introduced as the American Racing Series (ARS), the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship was launched by Sanchez and CART co-founder U.E. "Pat" Patrick in 1986. Sanchez also fielded an entry for Jeff Andretti that first season and won at Pocono en route to a second-place finish in the championship. Sanchez later concentrated on event promotion while Bailey was appointed president and remains in that role today. The series -- which was renamed Indy Lights from ARS in 1991 -- was purchased by CART in conjunction with the sanctioning body's highly successful initial stock offering in March of 1998.
    "In addition to being a top event promoter, Ralph Sanchez also played a part in the initial launch of Indy Lights in 1986," Bailey said. "Ralph was with Indy Lights in the very beginning and it is great to be in a position to in turn help him begin his next motorsports project."

    Bailey also sees the inaugural Indy Lights race in Aruba as the possible cornerstone for even more racing in the Latin America and Caribbean region in the near future.

    "While Aruba will provide the ideal site for a season-ending Indy Lights race in the year 2000, we are hopeful that the race will also lay the groundwork for a possible winter series Indy Lights championship in the years to come," Bailey said. "There is a lot of motorsport history in the Caribbean stemming back to the Cuban Grand Prix races of the mid-1950s and the famous Bahamas Speedweeks of the 1960s. It is now time to write the next chapter."