AUTOBACS Racing Team AGURI (ARTA) is a joint racing project formed between former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki and Autobacs Seven Co. in 1997. The team's original name was "ARTA F1 Project," but due to copyright claims based on the usage of the word "F1," the name has since been shortened to "ARTA." ARTA is also the 2007 SuperGT GT500's series champion in both the drivers and constructor championship.
The team was created with the objective of developing drivers that could compete in the highest levels of F1 racing. In addition to competing in racing competitions such as Formula Nippon and Super GT, the team also holds its youth kart racing competition, the "ARTA Challenge," to find the next generation of competitive race drivers.
As of 2007, the team competes in, or offers support to other drivers who compete in the following categories:
- Formula Nippon
- Super GT
- Indy Racing League
- All-Japan Formula Three Championship
- Formula Challenge Japan
- Karting World Championship
The team maintained a close relationship with Aguri Suzuki's F1 team, Super Aguri F1, before they were forced to withdraw from Formula One in 2008. ARTA is currently the largest racing team in Japan.
The team participated with the Nissan Skyline GT-R from 1998 to 1999. In 2000, the team joined up with Honda, and began using the Honda NSX. Owner Aguri Suzuki and Keiichi Tsuchiya drove in the first year with Honda, and Katsutomo Kaneishi replaced Aguri in 2001. In 2003, Kaneishi moved on to participate in the DTM series, and his cousin, Toshihiro Kaneishi, took over as driver. Tsuchiya also announced his retirement the same year. Katsutomo Kaneishi returned from DTM in 2004, and became driver along with Daisuke Ito. Tsuchiya became team director this year, but various mechanical failures caused the team to win only 2 points in the entire competition. In 2005, ARTA became a Honda team (Team Honda Racing), along with Takata Dome NSX. Aguri returned as team director, with Ito and Ralph Firman as drivers. The team took pole position 3 times, and was competitive all season. The team won the 7th race at Autopolis. ARTA kept the same drivers for 2006, but was unable to win the competition despite taking the pole position several times. The team did win the 4th race at Sepang. Team Honda Racing was dissolved in 2007, and ARTA participated in the competition with the same lineup as 2006. They won 3 races during the season on their way to championship victory. For 2008 Firman is joined by class newcomer Takuya Izawa while former driver Daisuke Ito left the team to drive for ENEOS TOYOTA Team LeMans.
The team made its debut in 2001 with the Toyota MR-S, and became series champion in 2002 with drivers Morio Nitta and Shinichi Takagi.
In 2003, ARTA participated with the ASL Garaiya, which had been developed by Autobacs. The machine showed good cornering, but the Nissan SR engine lacked power, resulting in a poor finish. In 2004, the team switched over to the Nissan VQ engine, and won two consecutive races. However, they failed to win the competition by a margin of 1 point. In 2005, the team was leading in points at the 7th race, (Autopolis) but lost in the final race to place 3rd in the final standings. The team director had announced during the season that the team would be dissolved if they failed to become champion, leading ARTA to end its participation in the series.
However, in 2007, Aguri Suzuki announced that he would like to race the Garaiya to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the start of ARTA, and the team renewed its participation in the series with the same lineup as 2005. The Garaiya won the 3rd race, (Fuji Speedway) but crashed in all of the proceeding races and was forced to retire from the competition.
Indy Racing LeagueEdit
ARTA first entered the Indy Racing League in 2003 backing a car driven by Japanese-American Roger Yasukawa that was prepared by Fernandez Racing. This car was called "Super Aguri Fernandez Racing" and Aguri Suzuki was listed as a team owner. In 2004, Yasukawa was replaced by Kosuke Matsuura who won both the Indianapolis 500 and the league's rookie of the year honors. In 2007, ARTA and Aguri switched their support from Fernandez to Panther Racing, bringing Matsuura with them as well as a Japanese rookie to run in the Indy Pro Series developmental league, Hideki Mutoh. Mutoh won 2 races, finished second in Pro Series points, and made his IndyCar debut at the final race of the 2007 season, finishing 8th and recording the fastest race lap. Matsuura has finished no better than 13th in IndyCar Series points and has not won a race in his four years in the series. Mutoh took on the Panasonic and Formula Dream sponsorship for 2008 and moved to Andretti Green Racing and won Rookie of the Year honors. However, the entry is no longer branded as an ARTA project.
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