Santa Clarita, California, October 4, 1998 - Honda Performance Development, a subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. based in Santa Clarita, California, issued the following News Release on October 3 at 1 p.m. local time.
Today Honda Performance Development (HPD) announced that Naoki Hattori would be joining the team of racers competing in cars equipped with Honda's Indy V8 engine. Hattori will join Gil de Ferran in the Walker Racing team for the 1999 FedEx Championship series.
After switching to use the Honda Indy V8 engine in 1997, the Walker Racing team gained instant success, with Gil de Ferran gaining second place in the PPG Cup drivers' rankings. With Hattori joining the team, Walker Racing will be able to field two cars in next season's championship.
In a long racing career in Japan spanning 13 years, Naoki Hattori has competed in several different motor sports categories, including appearances in Formula 1. He was the Japanese Formula 3 champion in 1990 and claimed several victories in Formula Nippon. He has also won the Spa Francorchamps 24-Hour Endurance Race and the All-Japan Touring Car series. The team he will form with Gil de Ferran looks set to enjoy much success in the upcoming season.
Robert Clark (General Manager, Honda Performance Development)
"I'm delighted to be able to see such a talented driver joining a top-class racing category. Hattori has certainly demonstrated his talent with his results to date, and we're honored that he's going to be competing in a car powered by a Honda Indy V8 engine. He's had great results in the two years he's spent in the Indy Lights, and I suppose you could say it's proof that the racing system works to see a talent such as his being promoted to the next stage. I'm also sure that Walker Racing will be delighted that they'll be able to field a double entry. This will also definitely give a boost to the entire team's performance, judging from when this has happened in the past. We'll be working ceaselessly to ensure that both Hattori and Derrick (Walker) get to the top."
Derrick Walker (team owner, Walker Racing)
"I'm really honored to have Naoki Hattori racing for us in one of the world's most competitive championship car races. For both myself and the team, getting to two cars was a major goal. We get a lot out of having a second driver, not least the greater number of chances to test the machine and develop the technology. That's a really important success factor in this type of racing."
"Obviously I'm delighted that I've finally got my chance to compete in the CART series, which has been what I've wanted to do for a long time. I started making plans to race in America back in 1994. So for me it's a great honor to have secured a regular place in the Walker Racing line-up racing in the top category in just my fifth year in the States. I've done testing with the Walker Racing team before, and I was impressed then with how professional they were. I'm really looking forward to being able to race for their team next season. The CART series is highly competitive, and I realize it's a much tougher proposition than the Indy Lights. But I know I can win and I'll be doing my very best to make that happen. Thank you."
Walker Racing team profile
|PPG Cup 2nd place ranking (1997)
|1998 car specs:
|Honda Indy V-8 HRK
|Gil de Ferran
Derrick Walker established Walker Racing in 1990 after a long period managing the Penske team. They became famous when one of their drivers, Willy T. Ribbs, became the first African American driver in history to compete in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. In 1992, at the same race, they were victorious thanks to the excellent driving of Scott Goodyear. Since 1997 they have switched to the Honda Indy V8 engine. In its first season, the team scooped honors with Gil de Ferran gaining second place in the drivers' rankings, as well as two pole positions.
Profile of Naoki Hattori
Debuting in 1986, his professional career has now spanned 13 years. He has competed in several different categories, including Formula racing (notably F-1), touring cars and GT, notching up an impressive string of victories in the process. As well as gaining the 1990 Japanese Formula 3 championship, he has won the 24-Hour Endurance Race at Spa, as well as the All-Japan Touring Car championship. Since moving to America in 1997, he has competed in the Indy Lights. In the 1998 season he has claimed a second place finish and is currently ranked ninth.
- Born: Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture
- Birth date: June 13, 1966
- Height: 178 cm
- Major successes:
|B-class Champion, Suzuka Silver Cup FJ1600
B-class Champion, Tsukuba FJ1600
|Champion, All-Japan Formula-3 series
|Winner, 24-Hour Endurance Race, Spa Francorchamps (Belgium)
Competed in the Japanese and Australian F-1 Grand Prix
|Overall Champion, All-Japan Touring Cars series
|Overall Champion, All-Japan Touring Cars series
2nd place overall, All-Japan GT series
2nd place overall, All-Japan Formula Nippon series