Da Matta/PKV deal imminent

Autosport.com understands that Cristiano da Matta has signed a contract to compete with PKV Racing in the Champ Car World Series this season.

Da Matta/PKV deal imminent

The Formula 1 refugee has been seeking to return to the US-based championship he dominated in 2002 since he was released by Toyota in the summer, and has held protracted talks with his former Newman/Haas Racing team. Negotiations reached an advanced stage, but the funding was not in place at the Illinois-based outfit to support a three-car programme.

Instead da Matta has found a new home at the PKV squad co-owned by former series champion Jimmy Vasser, OWRS chief Kevin Kalkhoven and businessman Dan Pettit. The team looks set to be a major force to be reckoned with in Champ Cars this season, with a much stronger driver line-up than in 2004 - when Vasser was partnered by Mexican journeyman Roberto Gonzalez - and legendary team manager Jim McGee at the helm.

PKV will hold a press conference confirming da Matta's signing at its Indianapolis base on Tuesday. It is not known whether the team will field a third car for either Toyota Atlantic standout Ryan Dalziel or former Jaguar F1 test driver and F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim.

The return of da Matta to the Champ Car fold adds some much-needed star quality to the series and takes the number of former champions expected to participate this season to four (Vasser, Paul Tracy and defending title-holder Sebastien Bourdais being the other three). Most teams have still to confirm their 2005 line-ups.

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