Cleveland'S Burke Lakefront Airport is next for Dorricott Racing and the Toyota Atlantic Championship. CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 11, 2002) - The second half of the 2002 Toyota Atlantic Championship is shaping to be as close and exciting as...
Cleveland'S Burke Lakefront Airport is next for Dorricott Racing and the Toyota Atlantic Championship.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 11, 2002) - The second half of the 2002 Toyota Atlantic Championship is shaping to be as close and exciting as the first half of the season with Dorricott Racing still very much in the Atlantic title chase. Next stop is the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland this Sunday, July 14, and it promises to be a wide-open, hard-charging type of race.
The 32-lap (67.392 mile) Atlantic sprint around the 2.106-mile, 10-turn temporary airport runway road circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport is round eight of the 12-race series. It is scheduled to drop the green flag at 10:55 a.m. ET. Sunday's race will be the fifth time since 1998 that the Atlantic series has competed at Burke Lakefront Airport, and is the featured support event for the CART FedEx Championship race that will run later that day. Atlantic did not run in Cleveland in 1999.
The Atlantic Championship is engaged in one its tightest championship battles in recent memory. It's top seven drivers in the championship standings are only separated by 29 points. Dorricott Racing's Jon Fogarty, of Portola Valley, Calif., is in second place and 14 points behind series leader Michael Valiante, of Canada, 89-75.
Fogarty is attempting to become the first driver to win the season opening race and go on to win a Championship since Mark Dismore did it in 1990. As an aside, Fogarty's also leads third-place driver Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings 75-71.
Teammates Alex Gurney, of Newport Beach, Calif., and Luis Diaz, of Mexico, are also most definitely in the championship pursuit. Gurney is tied with fellow Californian Roger Yasukawa for fourth place with 67 points. Diaz is close behind in seventh place with 60 points. Cleveland could look good to Diaz particularly considering he has led the most laps of any Atlantic driver in 2002 on road courses (40).
Gurney has kept in the title hunt through consistent high finishes. After starting last Saturday on the outside pole at Toronto, he completed the race in fifth place. He has a season-best second place finish at Long Beach, but has qualified five times this season in the first two rows as well as being a front-runner in nearly every race.
Bonus points may prove to be the deciding factor and Dorricott Racing has a clear advantage to date. It has ruled Atlantic qualifying this season in capturing four of the seven pole positions. Diaz earned poles at Monterrey, Mexico, and Portland, while Fogarty is seeking his third consecutive pole following top-qualifying honors at Chicago and Toronto.
Gurney won the 2000 pole in Cleveland while driving for All American Racers, but dropped out of the race early with a mechanical problem.
It's highly probable the Atlantic championship would have moved to Cleveland favoring Fogarty and Dorricott Racing if not for an indisputable yet controversial incident at Toronto that cost Dorricott Racing's driver trio a possible race victory in round seven.
On race restart on lap six, Valiante, who was in third place at the time, bullied an inside line away from Gurney and Fogarty heading into Turn 1 at Toronto. Valiante was more than just on the inside when he completed the pass. He literally placed all four tires below the track line effectively shortcutting the corner.
This maneuver improved Valiante two positions over Fogarty and Gurney. Television videotape clearly showed the violation, but Canadian corner workers failed to report the obvious violation to CART Atlantic officials. Valiante's pass, however, was clearly impermissible as defined in the CART Toyota Atlantic Rule Book. The "potential" for that exact situation had been addressed at the pre-race driver's meeting.
Meanwhile, Fogarty battled Valiante down the long straight heading into Turn 3. As the pair jockeyed for position, the entry to Turn 3 became more congested with a nose-to-tail field following in line behind Valiante. Diaz made tire-to-tire contact with the rear of Fogarty's car sending Diaz's car airborne into the tire wall. The incident eliminated both Dorricott cars from the race.
Valiante continued unchallenged for the next 29 laps to win the race over fellow countryman, Jonathan Macri, of Gormley, Ontario, by 0.909-seconds. The Canadian sweep of the top two spots thrilled a partisan audience, but that audience was unaware that Valiante's race winning maneuver was illegal.
CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Stewards, led by Chief Steward, K.C. Van Niman, determined nearly five hours after the race had ended that Valiante had shortcutted the course during that move and was assessed a five point penalty. The point reduction produced Valiante's 14-point cushion coming to Clevelandc
On an unrelated matter but one that directly affected Dorricott Racing, Rocky Moran Jr., who finished third place in the race, was fined 14 Championship points along with the forfeiture of $10,000 in race winnings after his car failed the post race inspection. The point reduction dropped Moran Jr. from third to eighth place in the Championship with 59 points.
Dorricott Racing's last visit to Cleveland was in 1999 with the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and drivers Oriol Servia, Philipp Peter, and Casey Mears. Servia demonstrated why he would eventually become the 1999 Dayton Indy Lights Champion when he smoothly qualified on the outside pole and then finished second place. Peter showed his incredible road racing prowess by finishing fourth place after qualifying an uncharacteristic ninth. Mears started seventh and finished eighth place. In 1998, Servia qualified second and finished sixth place.
Speed Channel will provide a same-day delayed telecast of the Toyota Atlantic Championship race from Cleveland beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. PT), Sunday, July 14.
Dorricott Racing is a year-round professional motorsports organization with its race shop located in Bakersfield, Calif. Detailed race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, www.dorricottracing.com.