The Dreyer & Reinbold team has announced that former F1 driver Giorgio Pantano will stand in for the injured Justin Wilson at the next two rounds of the IndyCar Series championship.
Pantano, 32, has one of the best records in feeder motorsport categories of any driver in recent history, yet his single F1 season – a part season at that – with Jordan in 2004 failed to deliver on the promise. In fourteen races, he netted eight retirements and quit the team after his home race at Monza.
After making his karting debut at the age of nine, Pantano quickly broke records, ending his maiden cadet season with the Italian, European and World titles to his name. He won the Italian and World Junior titles in 1994, and then won the European title in Formula A Karting in 1995 and 1996.
He joined the German F3 championship in 2000, sensationally winning on debut and going on to win the championship, earning a test drive with Benetton at the end of the year.
The following year, he joined Formula 3000 with the Astromega team, won at Monza and was tested by McLaren. He stayed on in F3000 – albeit with the unfancied Coloni team – and won three races en route to finishing runner-up in the championship.
When GP2 became the replacement series for Formula 3000, Pantano stayed on board, earning yet more wins and finally winning the 2008 title. He still holds the record for the most GP2 races contested and won.
More recently, he has been competing in the SuperLeague Formula and AutoGP championships.
This won’t be the first time that Pantano has raced in the North American series. He contested two races with Chip Ganassi in 2005 (pictured, top) – when the championship was known as the IRL – and finished fourth at his second outing, at Watkins Glen.
“I want to say thank you to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and the sponsors for giving me this opportunity,” Pantano said of the announcement. “I’m here to do the best that I can as always and I look forward to the chance to compete.”
D&R confirmed that it would be providing Pantano with a test session at Sonoma ahead of his return race so he could familiarise himself with the car and create a base set-up.
“We are extremely excited about putting Giorgio in our car at Sonoma and Baltimore,” D&R co-owner Dennis Reinbold said.
“Giorgio has a lot of experience and talent and we believe he will be a good fit. He will add another dimension to our program and we are happy to have him on board for those events.”
The team also added that it had not made any further decisions on who would drive the #22 entry for the remainder of the 2011 season, which includes a third road race at Motegi in Japan on September 17, and two oval courses at Kentucky and Las Vegas in October.
Since Wilson suffered a fractured vertebra during a practice accident at Mid-Ohio earlier this month, Simon Pagenaud and Tomas Scheckter have stood in for the injured Briton at Mid-Ohio and New Hampshire respectively.
Scheckter performed impressively for the team at the one-mile oval on his first IndyCar outing since the Indianapolis 500, running third early on before fading and ultimately getting involved in a three-car accident with Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan late in the race.
The South African has also announced that he too will be racing at Baltimore, teaming up again with SH Racing, which supported his earlier Indy 500 appearance.