Historical racing vehicles are always at a premium among collectors. What better pedigree than a vehicle that has competed on the track—and won—and has been preserved with its history intact. With technology racing ahead in motorsports, as it does everywhere, new vehicles are constantly introduced and older ones retired. But it is extremely rare for a vehicle with significant history and race victories behind it to come on to the market. The number 97 Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota (presented as the No. 25 MCI WorldCom Toyota) is just such a car.
The 2000 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) season was a breakthrough year for both PPI Motorsports and the Toyota Racing Development program. Toyota had just started a winning streak in the Indy car series that would lead to PPI earning its first series win as well.
Driven by Brazilian racing sensation Cristiano da Matta, the Pioneer Electronics/MCI WorldCom Toyota earned PPI its first win at Chicago Motor Speedway on July 30, 2000. Da Matta led 51 of 225 laps to reel in a nearly two-second margin of victory over Indy car legend Michael Andretti. Earlier that season, da Matta had also made PPI’s–and Toyota’s–podium debut with a third-place finish in Cleveland, Ohio.
Da Matta, an Indy Lights series champion prior to joining PPI, was in his second and final year with the PPI team. After PPI’s Indy car operation ended at the close of the 2000 racing season, da Matta went on to win the 2002 CART championship and compete for Toyota in Formula One.
When asked about what this first Indy car win meant to him, da Matta said, “This win is for Cal [Wells] and for Jeff Krosnoff.” Krosnoff drove for PPI in 1996, the team’s first full season of Indy car competition. His life was tragically cut short when he was killed in a racing accident in Toronto that same year.
Beautifully preserved and fully dressed in PPG paint using the MCI WorldCom paint scheme as a tribute to Krosnoff, this is the actual car that won that race in Chicago. As a tribute, it has been expertly prepped and preserved, and is probably in better condition than it was when it was actively campaigned. Based on a Reynard chassis (number 96I 030), the carbon fiber honeycomb tub remains in excellent condition with no damage or signs of repair. Still wearing the speedway wings (as opposed to those used in road course competition), the body has been carefully painted with an accurate paint scheme and wears an appropriate decal package. Up close, you’ll be surprised and impressed by the workmanship and the presentation—clearly, the guys working on this car cared a great deal about the tribute to their fallen teammate it represents.
For obvious reasons, the car is offered without an engine or transmission, but otherwise it remains in race-ready condition. Originally equipped with an all-aluminum Toyota V8 displacing a mere 1.65 liters (161.7 cubic inches), it was an incredibly potent package. It featured a forged steel crankshaft and rods, along with forged aluminum pistons, all living under state-of-the-art 4-valve DOHC heads. A Denso fuel and spark management system kept it all in tune at speeds in excess of 220 MPH, and it consumed a steady diet of high-octane methanol on the track. The transmission used in this application was an Xtrac six-speed manual sequential shift system, which allowed almost instantaneous shifting up or down.
The suspension features chrome-plated control arms, which act on a bell crank type suspension with inboard coil over shock absorbers wearing Eibach springs. Both front and rear sway bars are driver adjustable from the cockpit, allowing da Matta to fine-tune the car’s handling characteristics as he raced—and clearly, it worked. Brakes are massive 8-piston Brembo calipers hanging on steel rotors that were custom machined by PPI. Chrome-plated center-lock BBS forged magnesium wheels are standard race issue, and wear Firestone Firehawk racing radials.
The cockpit is still the same one that was custom-tailored to de Matta’s shape, and retains all the safety equipment used when the car was in competition. It also includes all the electronics that monitored the engine and other vitals, as well as the on-board adjustments for the suspension. Note the controls built into the Momo steering wheel rim, which gave the driver fingertip control over the information. And while most drivers will tell you that they don’t care what’s going on behind them, this car is equipped with Multivex Racing Mirrors with multiple angle convex lenses.
As both a significant part of racing history and as a tribute to a fallen comrade, the number 97 Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota (presented as the No. 25 MCI WorldCom Toyota) is a worthy addition to any open-wheel racing collection. It is heavily documented with multimedia information that adds greatly to its significance. It is also beautifully presented with better-than-original paint and detailing throughout. If you’re a fan of motorsports history, there’s no doubt that this car has earned a position in the finest collections. Call now.