JaguarRSR have confirmed their plans to run two JaguarRSR XKR GTs for the full American Le Mans Series (ALMS) welcoming a star-studded driver line-up for the teams second season in the championship.
Brazilians – and close friends – Cristiano da Matta and Bruno Junqueira will share the no.99 car, while P.J. Jones – a veteran of IMSA GTP campaigns with Toyota – will form one half of the driving squad for the other car, no.98. His teammate is as yet unconfirmed.
While Jones has copious GT racing experience the 2011 season with by the first sportscar steps for both Junqueira and da Matta as the pair come from open wheel backgrounds. Junqueira's CV includes three runner-up places in Champ Car from 2002-2004 and an Indy 500 pole from 2002. Da Matta won the Champ Car title in 2002, before a difficult season with the Toyota team in Formula One, after which he returned to America. The deal with JaguarRSR is, after making a racing comeback in Brazil in recent year, Da Matta's first major race seat since an accident in testing in 2006 left him with serious injuries.
“I have had a great career in open-wheel cars, and I feel that it is now time to begin a new chapter in my life,” said da Matta. “I have always admired GT racing, so I am excited to get started and to be a part of the American Le Mans Series with JaguarRSR. Working with Paul [Gentilozzi], someone who has experience in GT racing, couldn’t be a better situation for me. He will be a great teacher and I will be able to learn a lot from him. Driving for Jaguar is something big; a big responsibility in one way and a big pleasure in another because I will be working on developing the car and showing the true glamour of the XKR out in its racing form.”
“I am excited to be working with Cristiano,” said Junqueira. “He is an extremely talented driver and it will be an honor to call him my teammate. We are both from Brazil, actually from the same city. We have always been battling with each other on the track, my fondest memory was in 2002 when we fought for the Champ Car World Series Championship title, he won and I finished second. It will be nice to have him on my side, to work with him instead of trying to beat him.”
“We believe that 2011 holds a lot of promise,” said Gentilozzi, JaguarRSR Principal Partner. “We have our ‘rookie’ season behind us, and look forward to a more competitive sophomore season with all of the changes and developments that we have made to the program. We have such great talent in our driver line-up, all of these guys will bring a unique perspective and influence to the team.”
The team, and all three newly named drivers, will be participating in the ALMS winter test at Sebring International Raceway on February 9-10 before the 12 Hours of Sebring begins the season on March 19.