Matsuura Hoping To Rebound
April 19, 2007 | 12:05 A.M. EST
In the first two races of the 2007 IndyCar Series season, Matsuura has endured disappointing finishes of 16th- and 17th-place following crashes with Jeff Simmons at Homestead-Miami Speedway and St. Petersburg, respectively. Following the second incident, Matsuura demonstrated his frustration at Simmons on national television by using a word not allowed on television (or family friendly websites), leading to a chat with IndyCar Series President Brian Barnhart and an undisclosed fine.
"I really wanted to apologize for what I said during my ESPN and IMS Radio Network interviews," Matsuura said. "I was upset about the crash, but I didn’t need to use the language I did. Everybody on my Panther team was frustrated, but I should have expressed my disappointment in a better way. I’m sorry."
However, that is all in the past as the 27-year-old driver of the No. 55 Panasonic Dallara-Honda prepares for his home race this Saturday.
"This is the biggest race of the year for me," said Matsuura, a native of Aichi, Japan. "For most people in the league, it’s the Indy 500, but the Motegi race is very special for me as a driver. I’ve enjoyed working for Super Aguri Panther Racing so far this season, and just wish we would have had a better result."
That said, it will not be easy.
Although Matsuura has finished in the top 10 in each of his three races at Twin Ring Motegi, his career best result is only seventh. Also, despite completing 598 laps at the 1.5-mile course, he has yet to lead one circuit at his home track.
Things don’t get much better when you add his team’s past results. Since the IndyCar Series began competing at Twin Ring Motegi in 2003, Panther Racing has only scored a best finish of sixth with Sam Hornish Jr. at the helm. In 2005, Tomas Scheckter was dominant throughout the day, leading 47 laps before running out of fuel just before the final lap.
Matsuura remains optimistic, however, determined that he and teammate Vitor Meira can produce good finishes on race day. During today’s second practice session, Matsuura finished second fastest with a fast lap of 202.472 mph – only slower than Danica Patrick’s run of 202.979 mph.
"We’ve got a great car. I couldn't get a good result in the morning session but the car's running great all day. I am satisfied with the setup and I could run pretty well alone so I want to run in traffic during the practice session tomorrow. The team has been working so hard on my car to win the race in my home country so I am looking forward to the qualifying tomorrow and hopefully get a good starting position."
If he can continue that fast pace, and follow his golden rule of "staying away from Jeff Simmons this weekend," look for a very happy home crowd on Saturday.