Hideki Mutoh and Buddy Rice have both announced they will make their respective returns to IndyCar Series racing.
Mutoh will compete at the IndyCar race at Japan’s Motegi Twin Ring circuit, while Rice will compete in the final two rounds at Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas.
Mutoh will drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports alongside Alex Tagliani; it is expected he will take over from British rookie Martin Plowman, who claimed top-twelve finishes at the last rounds at Sonoma and Baltimore.
Mutoh’s involvement in IndyCar racing dates as far back as 2007, when he made his debut for the Super Aguri Panther Racing team. He remained in the series until 2010, claiming the 2008 Rookie of the Year title and two podium finishes.
“Though this is only one race, it means a lot to me to be able to race in front of my home crowd again,” Mutoh said of the announcement, with the event marking the first time that the IndyCar Series will race on the circuit’s road course layout, having traditionally used its oval circuit.
“I am determined to do well and put up a strong performance for the team. It will also help having Alex Tagliani as a teammate and I really cannot wait to get started.”
Buddy Rice, meanwhile, will make his first appearance on the IndyCar circuit since this year’s centenary running of the Indianapolis 500. He will again drive for Panther Racing, partnering JR Hildebrand.
“I’m just excited to be back at Panther Racing and thankful to run some more races together,” Rice said of the announcement.
“I’ve had a lot of chances to get back into IndyCar but at Panther we know we’ve got a package together that can win races.
“I know Panther was really strong at Kentucky last year (Ed Carpenter claimed pole position and finished second) and they’ve got one of the best oval programs in the series, so I know JR and I can work together to get these cars towards the front.”
The Las Vegas event will also mark Rice’s 100th IndyCar race. To-date, the American has claimed three wins (including the 2004 Indy 500), five pole positions and eight podium finishes.
[Images via LAT]