Strous Sweeps Weekend at Mont-Tremblant to Score First Atlantic Victory and Take Over Points Lead MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada (June 29, 2008) - One day after taking his first career Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered...
Strous Sweeps Weekend at Mont-Tremblant to Score First Atlantic Victory and Take Over Points Lead
MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada (June 29, 2008) - One day after taking his first career Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda pole position and one year after watching his Condor Motorsports teammate Franck Perera celebrate his first victory at Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Dutchman Junior Strous dominated the Sommet des Legendes en route to his first career Atlantic win.
Driving the No. 6 Shell/HTP/Muermans Group/Red, White & Bluezz entry for Condor Motorsports/Team Holland, Strous led throughout the 30-lap event and his victory was secure when the day's third and final full-course caution period came out on the final lap of the race. In addition to scoring a bonus point for the pole position and 31 for the victory, Strous earned one more bonus point for turning the race's fastest lap.
With three of 11 Atlantic races now in the books, Strous has taken over the points lead by seven points, 74-67, over James Hinchcliffe and Markus Niemela. It was also the Dutchman's second consecutive podium result, following a third-place outing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and helps to erase painful memories of a broken wrist during his rookie Atlantic season last year once and for all.
"This first career victory feels so good," Strous said. "I remember last year at Mont-Tremblant, I still had a broken wrist. It was total hell, especially the first chicane. I'm feeling it a little bit now, but we just had a great weekend. We had a clean sweep this weekend, had the pole position, won the race and had the fastest race lap. The guys worked really hard. We had some problems with the car throughout the weekend, but the mechanics stayed up late and fixed it. I'd like to thank them a lot. They worked so hard. I took the lead in the championship, so obviously, I'm really happy with that. Franck Perera won his first race here last year. It's not a coincidence that I also won my first race here. It's just great. I'm really happy!"
Niemela also posted the best result of his young Atlantic career with a second-place performance aboard the No. 8 Mr. Jones Bar & Kitchen/Rauma Town/Turku Karting machine for Brooks Associates Racing. The Finnish rookie started third, but got a great jump on the standing start to easily take over second place from Kevin Lacroix heading into the first turn. Like Strous, Niemela would not be seriously challenged during the race. He moved into a tie for second in the overall championship standings with Hinchcliffe, and has taken over the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings. He now leads the rookie race by 16 points over American Jonathan Summerton.
"I think the result of the race was all right," Niemela said. "It was good, actually. Of course, winning is a completely different story. You can be completely, genuinely happy if you win, but I'm definitely happy with second position. It keeps us in a good position for the championship, as well. I knew that Condor (Motorsports) was probably going to have a really good car for the race, like we saw last year. Junior is a fast driver as well. I knew it was going to be tough, and I couldn't quite keep up with him. I don't think there was that big of a speed difference, but he was slightly faster than me pretty much all the time. Anyway, it was a good race."
Enjoying a good race for the second straight time was American Carl Skerlong in the No. 14 King Taco machine for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Skerlong also took advantage on the standing start to move from fourth to third where he would remain throughout the event. Skerlong's third-place result fits together nicely with his second-place run the last time out at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last month and he has now moved into the top five in the point standings. "It was not a super-eventful day," Skerlong said. "It was wet in the morning (warm-up), and we didn't really get a chance to try new changes or anything before the race. We knew we had a decent car. I qualified third in the first qualifying, and that was pretty much the car we had for the race. I think the top three broke away a little bit and we had a pretty clean race going. In the last 10 minutes, we had the first restart and it definitely made us step our game up having someone in our mirrors. I think James (Hinchcliffe) did a good job of holding some people off behind him. All in all, it helped me out. The way the points worked out, I'm very happy with third. You've got to take what you can get. This is what we need for the championship. We're happy. I've got to thank all the guys from Pacific Coast Motorsports and King Taco and everybody that made this possible."
While the three cars ahead of him seemingly cruised to their respective finishing positions, Hinchcliffe had a bit more of a battle throughout the race to secure a fourth-place result in the No. 3 Indeck/Tire Rack/NOCO machine for Forsythe/Pettit Racing. It was Hinchcliffe's second consecutive top-five performance, and although he lost the points lead, he remains well within striking distance of the championship with eight races still to come this season.
Also enjoying a career-best result at Mont-Tremblant was American rookie Dane Cameron, who came home fifth in the No. 19 MAZDASPEED/Finlay Motorsports/Lynx Racing machine for Genoa Racing. The 2007 Star Mazda champion improved greatly upon results of 11th and 17th with the top-five performance in just his third Atlantic Championship start.
Driving the No. 26 Del Taco/RLM Investments/Stone Brewing entry for Mathiasen Motorsports, Jonathan Bomarito charged all the way to sixth place after starting 13th to earn the bonus point for most improved positions. German Andreas Wirth finished seventh in the No. 88 Wirsol Solar Energy/Sueba USA Development machine for Brooks Associates Racing, while Mexican racer David Garza came home eighth in the No. 7 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa Cat entry from Forsythe/Pettit Racing.
Simona De Silvestro, who won the season-opening race at Long Beach in April, finished ninth in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy mount for Newman Wachs Racing, and Strous' Condor Motorsports/Team Holland teammate Dominick Muermans completed the top 10 in the No. 9 Hugenholtz Property Group/Jumbo Supermarkten/Muermans Group entry.
The race was slowed by full-course caution three times for a total of 10 laps. Greg Mansell, who was entered in the No. 5 Sunseeker machine for Walker Racing and Luis Schiavo in Eurointernational's No. 46 Constructora Iriaca/Astaltatora Maracay/Transporte Jumbo/Energy Freight System entry, did not compete in the Sommet des Legendes. Both cars were damaged in a crash during the morning warm-up session. The drivers were not injured.