The newly merged Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports team has denied that the two squads have joined forces solely for financial reasons.
Two-time Champ Car champion and 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran had previously hoped to form his own IndyCar team for this season, but yesterday announced a merger between his business and the team owned by Steve Luczo and Jay Penske, which will run a single car in this season's IndyCar Series for 2009 Rookie of the Year Raphael Matos.
"This wasn't driven by economics; it was driven by our will to compete and win at this level," said Penske. "We wanted to bring in the experience of someone who has won at this level and combine it with the technology that Steve and I have. This is about making a strong core base stronger."
De Ferran added: "We're facing formidable opponents: Ganassi and Team Penske have been dominating this championship for the last several seasons and the goal is to be as good as them if not better. To do that, we need to dig deep and pull as many resources as we can together."
De Ferran admitted his own team – which previously raced in the American Le Mans Series – had suffered from the uncertainty over his 2010 plans and lost some key personnel as a result, but said this merger would allow him to bring remaining staff across to strengthen Luczo Dragon Racing.
"Teams are made of people and process and at the end of last year it's true we lost some key guys and the reason we lost them is because there was so much uncertainty as to what we were going to do," he said. "The culture of de Ferran Motorsports remains, a lot of the processes we created over the past couple of seasons are going to be integrated with Luczo Dragon, and a lot of our personnel will come back and be a part of our team.
"The biggest investment we can make is in people. Luczo Dragon's head count will be increasing, but it's important everyone fits within that structure. You don't want too much overlap. Right now we have moved three people from de Ferran Motorsports and the headcount may increase further."
The squad dismissed rumors it may run a second car this year for Graham Rahal or ex-Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato, but does hope to run more cars in the future and is even plotting an expansion into feeder series Indy Lights.
"The extra data and R&D you can accumulate means running two cars makes a lot of sense, and that is the direction we want to go in the future, but as we proved last year by winning the Rookie of the Year, you can have a lot of success with a single-car effort," said Penske.
"We have a lot of respect for Graham Rahal and everything he's achieved in this series, and if an opportunity came along to work with him in the future, we would welcome that, but at the moment we're very much focused on Rafa.
"We've seen many great champions and drivers come out of Indy Lights and being involved with it is something we've been looking at.
"It's part of building this team where there are opportunities to do so, but we've got a budget to run one car this year and that's the plan."
De Ferran added: "I think Sato is the best person to answer questions about what Sato is doing. Rumors about him working with me have started because we worked together at Honda in F1. If he comes to IndyCar I think he will be a great asset. He's a very good driver and very popular in Japan, so he'll bring a lot of fans to the series."
De Ferran also ruled out a driving comeback in IndyCar. When asked about making a one-off appearance in the Indy 500 he said: "I'll give that a very short answer: No! IndyCar racing is highly competitive and I found it hard enough to be competitive when I was doing it full time. It was the sole focus of my life.
"I thought about how to make myself a better driver all the time. It takes a lot of focus and I found when I was running de Ferran Motorsports in the ALMS, trying to grow the team, [it was] increasingly difficult to perform both functions to my standard.
"I would find it impossible to compete at the level it would take to win the Indy 500 and run our new team as a world-class organization. The two tasks are too much for one person at the same time."