Monterrey: Round two preview

ROOKIE-DOMINATED FIELD GEARS UP FOR ROUND 2 OF 2005 TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP AS SERIES HEADS SOUTH OF THE BORDER TO MONTERREY, MEXICO INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2005) -- Unless Estonian-born racer Tonis Kasemets ( ...

ROOKIE-DOMINATED FIELD GEARS UP FOR ROUND 2 OF 2005 TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP AS SERIES HEADS SOUTH OF THE BORDER TO MONTERREY, MEXICO

INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2005) -- Unless Estonian-born racer Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) has his way this weekend, a rookie driver will win Round 2 of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama at the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans, May 20-22 (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, May 28 at 2 p.m. ET)

Kasemets enters this weekend's action as the only non-rookie in the Atlantic field, making the odds pretty favorable that a first-year driver will capture the checkered flag Sunday at the 12-turn, 2.104-mile Fundidora Park permanent road circuit. But even Kasemets, who currently resides in Mundelein, Illinois, has not made a start in his Atlantic career in Monterrey.

Only three drivers in this weekend's field have a history of racing in Monterrey, but all of those competitors certainly do have a chance to make the most of their experience in an effort to find their way to Victory Circle on Sunday. Canadian rookie Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) of Polestar Racing Group is coming off a second-place finish in the Atlantic season opener at Long Beach in April. After pacing both rounds of qualifying, winning his first Atlantic pole and leading the first 26 laps of the race in Long Beach, Bessette saw his Polestar teammate - Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) wrestle away the lead over the final three laps for her first series victory. Bessette finished half-a-second behind Legge and trails her by a single point in the championship standings (32-31) entering Round 2. Bessette can search his memory banks for an advantage this weekend, however, as he ran in Monterrey with the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 2003. After qualifying third that season, Bessette went on to finish 13th in the race after suffering some damage during a first-lap accident.

One of the newest addition to the '05 Atlantic lineup, Mexican racer David Martinez (#32 Roshfrans), is another driver with experience in Monterrey and he's proven that he knows how to get up front and stay there at the Fundidora Park circuit. After making his lone Atlantic start at Monterrey with Condor Motorsports in 2002 while finishing 15th, Martinez also competed in the same Barber Dodge Pro Series event as Bessette in 2003. Martinez had a dream weekend at that race, qualifying second and overtaking polesitter Leo Maia for lead on Lap 1. He led every lap en route to his lone Barber Dodge victory that season in front of the raucous fans in his hometown of Monterrey. In his debut for the US RaceTronics team this weekend, Martinez hopes to recapture a little bit of that old magic.

Fellow Mexican Memo Rojas (#10 Telmex) is final driver in this weekend's field with Monterrey experience. Rojas also raced in the '03 Barber Dodge event and produced a podium result coming in third place, just under half-a-second behind Martinez and Maia, who finished second. Competing for the Brooks Associates Racing team, Rojas will look to run up front again in Monterrey in his first Atlantic start on Sunday.

Of course all eyes will also be on Legge, the series leader who recorded the first-ever, major open-wheel racing win for a woman in North America at Long Beach last month. She demonstrated the ability to focus and, after coming from seventh position to take the checkered flag in Round 1, she proved she could make up ground quickly on a course that's new to her. The British ace will need to show those same qualities this weekend as she looks to maintain her championship lead and make it two wins in a row to start the season.

Running for Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis, Kasemets ran well in qualifying at Long Beach before contact in Turn 1 and an electrical problem brought his season debut to an abrupt ending. Kasemets is anxious to get back to it this weekend as he looks to make up for a frustrating 15th-place finish in Round 1.

Brooks Associates Racing's Andreas Wirth (#8 KBE/Profine/Wurges Windows and Doors) will also be rooting for a rebound in Monterrey. Wirth, the German rookie who captured the Formula BMW USA title in 2004, started second in Round 1 but never made it through Turn 1 in the race after mixing it up with another competitor at the green flag. It's safe to say he's hoping for continued speed but a better result this weekend.

Dutch driver Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) will look to build on an impressive performance in Long Beach as he makes his first Monterrey start. The rookie appeared to have earned the Long Beach pole position before his car failed a post-qualifying technical inspection. Coming from the very back of the pack following the infraction on race day, Zwolsman diced his way through the field, eventually finishing third for his first Atlantic podium result.

First-year championship entrants Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com/Pauline's Antiques/Toyota of Huntington Beach/T. Christy), Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools) and Ben Johnston (#96 Win Fuel/TrimSpa/Media Brokers International) will also be seeing their first action in Monterrey. The 19-year-old Kelley had a solid series debut, finishing eighth at Long Beach, and he will try to improve on that result Sunday when he lines up for McAtee Motorsports. Both Nastasi and Johnston, teammates for Blackforest Motorsports, experienced mechanical problems on race day in Long Beach as each driver did not take the green flag. Both racers are back and ready to go at it again in Round 2.

American Adam Pecorari (#2 Konica Minolta/Penn Capital) will see his first action in Monterrey this weekend as he makes his '05 Atlantic debut. The 20-year-old Pecorari competed in the final two events of the 2004 season for Jensen Motorsport and the talented young racer returns with the Jensen team this weekend.

In the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup category, driver/owner Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction) enters this weekend ranked second behind Justin Sofio in the C2 point standings and he'll look to capture the class lead in his first Monterrey Atlantic start, with Sofio not expected to race this weekend. Cobb posted a very respectable sixth-place overall result at Long Beach in his maiden Atlantic voyage. Mark Ishikakawa (#71 Bay TSP) also earned a top-10 result in his series debut. He came home ninth in Round 1 and he will also be competing in the C2 class this weekend.

All cars racing in Monterrey are Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. Each entry will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

The Toyota Atlantic schedule calls for the cars to hit the track for the first time at Fundidora Park on Friday morning with practice scheduled from 9:30-10 a.m. CT. The opening-round of qualifying will be held from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday. The Toyota engines will roar to life Saturday with a morning practice slated for 8:05-8:35 a.m., while the final round of qualifying is set for 1:15-1:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. After a 15-minute warm-up session from 8:45-9 a.m. Sunday, Round 2 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama will get underway at 12:15 p.m. The race is scheduled for 32 laps (67.328 miles) or 50 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans Atlantic race at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 28. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in 133 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, visit the series' official web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: The Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans Toyota Atlantic race

WHERE:  Fundidora Park, Monterrey, Mexico

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, May 20-22

TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, MAY 20
9:30-10 a.m., Practice
1:15-1:45 p.m., First-Round Qualifying.

SATURDAY, MAY 21
8:05-8:35 a.m., Practice
1:15-1:45 p.m., Final Qualifying.

SUNDAY, MAY 22
8:45-9 a.m., Warm-up
12:15-1:15 p.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, MAY 28 -- SPEED Channel, Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans Toyota Atlantic race, 2 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay).

2004 CHAMPION:  Alex Figge

2004 POLESITTER: Ryan Dalziel
TRACK LAYOUT:  2.104-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 32 laps (67.328 miles) or 50 minutes

TRACK RECORDS:
Qualifying (one lap) -- 2004, Ryan Dalziel, 89.370 mph (1:24.753).
Race -- (one lap) 2004, Ryan Dalziel, 89.434 mph (1:24.693)
Race -- (32 laps) 2003, Michael Valiante, 81.427 mph (49:36.669).

RACE ROUND: 2 of 12 in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

NEXT EVENT: June 18-19, G.I. Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, Portland International Raceway -- Portland, Oregon

-atl/ccws-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Michael Valiante , Tom Nastasi , Memo Rojas , Katherine Legge , Alex Figge , Kyle Kelley , Adam Pecorari , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Dan Cobb , Ben Johnston