GERMAN ROOKIE ANDREAS WIRTH EARNS FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC VICTORY, WINNING ON THE STREETS OF DENVER DENVER, Colorado (August 14, 2005) -- When Andreas Wirth ( ...
GERMAN ROOKIE ANDREAS WIRTH EARNS FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC VICTORY, WINNING ON THE STREETS OF DENVER
DENVER, Colorado (August 14, 2005) -- When Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) looks back on his first victory in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, he likely won't remember the dominant middle portion of Sunday's flag-to-flag win on the streets of Denver, it will be the thrilling start and final laps that stand out in the rookie's mind.
Wirth enjoyed a tremendous start to Sunday's BOSPoker.com Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Denver (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel -- Saturday, August 20 at 3 p.m. ET) and he led comfortably throughout most of the 35-lap contest on the 1.657-mile street circuit. In the final few turns around Denver's Pepsi Center, however, the 20-year-old racer endured some tense moments, including a failed pass for the lead in the final turn of the final lap. Ultimately, Wirth captured his first Atlantic checkered flag, winning by 6.487 seconds over impressive 17-year-old American driver Alan Sciuto (#27 Dean's R/C Products/Sparco).
After becoming the youngest driver to win a pole in the 32-year history of the Atlantic series on Saturday, Sciuto started from the point in just his second series race. The native of Orange, California had to watch as Wirth, starting second, got a great jump at the green flag start to today's race to capture the lead in Turn 1. While Wirth, the 2004 Formula BMW USA champion, began to pull away after the strong start, there was plenty of action behind him on the opening lap.
First-year racing sensation Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing), who captured the last two series races and started fifth in Denver, became entangled with both Atlantic championship leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) and Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) as the three were fighting for position at the start. Legge suffered the worst of the incident as she was forced to pit lane with suspension damage. She was eventually able to continue, but she wound up 17th overall as she watched her bid for three straight wins come to an abrupt ending.
Kasemets and Zwolsman, the two top competitors for the '05 Atlantic crown entering the weekend, managed to continue after the opening-lap fracas. Zwolsman's car did suffer some minor damage and Kasemets lost one position before both drivers began to settle in to a race rhythm. While Zwolsman never was able to get close enough to battle Wirth for the lead, Kasemets found more speed as the race wore on, passing Zwolsman for second place with 12 laps remaining.
With lapped traffic slowing Wirth in the final laps, Kasemets began to attack. He caught up with the Brooks Associates Racing rookie on the final lap and he saw an opportunity to try and take the lead heading into Turn 9. Kasemets was forced to go wide into the turn in his attempt to get by and his car's back end kicked out, spinning Kasemets on the track as he watched his championship hopes take a major hit. He wound up finishing eighth in the final running order.
Sciuto, who fell back to fifth place after surrendering the lead to Wirth at the start, finished strong. He passed both Zwolsman and Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) in the final five laps to rally for a second-place finish. The talented teen has now claimed a fourth- and second-place result in his first two Atlantic races.
Zwolsman held on to finish third for his eighth podium finish in 10 events. The speedy Dutchman was also able to extend his lead in pursuit of the series crown. With 268 points on the year, Zwolsman now carries a 34-point cushion over Wirth into the final two rounds of Atlantic competition. Kasemets dropped to third in the standings, now 42 points out of the lead.
Bessette improved from his sixth-place starting spot to finish fourth. The result represented his eighth top-five finish of his rookie season. Mexico's David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) also improved, moving from seventh at the start to finish fifth for his fifth top-five result.
California rookie racer Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com) earned a bonus championship point for improving the most positions (three) during the race. Kelley came from ninth place to finish sixth. Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) kept alive his season-long streak of top-10 finishes as he crossed the stripe seventh. Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) and Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) completed the top 10 rundown. Sofio clinched the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup title last round in San Jose, and he earned his seventh C2-class win with today's effort.
The Atlantics are back in action next weekend for the penultimate round of the 2005 season. The series will race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin before closing out the year the following week in Montreal.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
Wirth's victory represents the first win in 11 Atlantic seasons by a Brooks Associates Racing driver.
Kasemets posted the fastest race lap. He carded a top time of 1:08.517 (87.060 mph) on the 33rd lap of the race.
Wirth's winning race time of 40:29.856 is a new Atlantic record for a 35-lap event in Denver.
Quotes from the top three drivers from today's qualifying session follow:
ANDREAS WIRTH (#8 Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "First of all, I would like to say that this race is for my grandfather who passed away two weeks ago. I knew before the race that we had a competitive car for the win and I had a good feeling about it. Everything worked great. I had a little bad luck at the end of the race with the lapped cars. Tonis gained a lot of time on me because the cars wouldn't get out of the way. But at the end, everything worked out for me. (On the start) Alan was a little bit later on the throttle on the start. I was one front wing in front, and I knew I could make it at the first corner if I braked a bit later. (On his last laps) It is not a great feeling when you have a car right behind and the lapped car won't get out of your way. Tonis went beside me at the hairpine. I kept my line, and he overdrove his car and spun."
ALAN SCIUTO (#27 Deans R/C Products/Sparco -- PR1 Motorsports): "I was pretty nervous on the start of the race. I just wanted to make it through the first turn in one piece. Andreas got a good start. I was comfortable staying in second and I was trying to hang with him. The car was not good at the beginning and then it started to come in, and I gained some ground. (On his performance this weekend) This weekend is just a dream come true. The team did an awesome job. PR1 Motorsports just put the team together and they did great. I think they gave me the tools to win the race. Maybe, a few things could have been done a bit differently but Andreas had a strong race. I am happy with second. (On next season) I definitely want to be back in Atlantic next year. There will be a lot of good competition with great incentives. We need to see what we can do on the financial side."
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports): "I think Legge and Kasemets made a deal together, to get me in a sandwich at the start (laughing). It was really tight. I guess they couldn't see each other and they closed up on me. Katherine hit my rear right and damaged my car a little bit. But I was happy to be able to continue. From that moment the car felt strange and I struggled a little bit during the race because of that. But it was a great race with a lot of action. I was fighting as usual Alan and Antoine, but my team owner came on the radio and said: 'Think about the points'. I had forgotten about that and I was going for it. I believe I have to focus on being quick and the title will come by itself."