Firebird test notes 2005-03-30

REES OFF TO STRONG START IN FIRST DAY OF TOYOTA ATLANTIC SPRING TEST SESSION CHANDLER, AZ (March 30, 2005) -- With the start of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season just over a week away, several teams are ...

REES OFF TO STRONG START IN FIRST DAY OF TOYOTA ATLANTIC SPRING TEST SESSION

CHANDLER, AZ (March 30, 2005) -- With the start of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season just over a week away, several teams are providing a sneak preview of the close competition expected on track this season with a two-day series test session.

A total of six drivers and four Atlantic teams took to the track at Arizona's Firebird East road course just outside of Phoenix on Wednesday. Under sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures, the roar of Toyota engines came to life on the 1.244-mile circuit as the competitors made their final preparations before the '05 season lidlifter next week at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Brazilian rookie Fernando Rees posted the unofficial quick lap of the day in the yellow #10 Brooks Associates Racing machine when he was clocked at 53.4 seconds. Rees ran 76 laps throughout the course of the day and the former European road racer was happy with what he got out of the car.

"I thought the day went really well," said Rees. "Without even considering our lap time, every change that we made in the car felt right. We kept getting better and better and we were consistent on all of our lap times. We tried to test some different things and even though this is a completely different type of course, I think we found some things that we can use in Long Beach."

British racing phenom Katherine Legge turned 97 laps today in only her second day of Toyota Atlantic testing. Legge proved to be fast in her #12 PKV Racing entry for Polestar Racing Group, recording an unofficial top lap of 54.3 seconds.

"I was getting a feel for the car and we spent some time working on the setup," said Legge, the 24-year-old Atlantic rookie. "We still have some things to work on, but I thought it was a really successful day overall."

Fellow first-year pilot Andreas Wirth did not have a successful day on track. The talented German driver fought several mechanical gremlins and managed to complete only 22 laps on course. The 2004 Formula BMW USA champion still owned a respectable time, despite never really finding his rhythm due to his car's troubles. Competing in the #8 car for the Tucson-based Brooks Associates Racing squad, Wirth posted an unofficial fast lap of 54.5 seconds.

Promising young Canadian racer Antoine Bessette put in a lot of work in his orange #3 entry for Polestar. The Quebec rookie had an unofficial top time of 54.71 seconds as he turned 121 laps in his first test with his new team.

Veteran Dan Selznick of The Room Store team, based in Arizona, ran in the morning session as he prepared for next week's season opener. Newcomer Lee Atkins of Atkins Racing got his first taste of Atlantic competition logging nearly 160 miles during the day as he prepares to make his series debut in the C2 class on the streets of Long Beach.

The teams will complete the two-day test session with another full day of track activity on Thursday. The 32nd season of the Toyota Atlantic Championship will get the green flag next weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 8-10. SPEED Channel's tape-delayed coverage of the race will air on Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. ET.

The Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. The championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. Current Champ Car competitors Alex Tagliani, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andrew Ranger are also established Toyota Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger. For more information on the Atlantic series, please visit www.toyotaatlantic.com.

-ccws-

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Danny Sullivan , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Antoine Bessette , Andrew Ranger , Dan Selznick , Andreas Wirth , Lee Atkins , Fernando Rees