Montreal: Season finale preview

ZWOLSMAN AND KASEMETS TO DECIDE 2005 TOYOTA ATLANTIC TITLE IN SEASON FINALE AT MONTREAL'S CIRCUIT GILLES-VILLENEUVE INDIANAPOLIS (August 24, 2005) -- They've fought each other tooth and nail over the last five months for the top position in...

ZWOLSMAN AND KASEMETS TO DECIDE 2005 TOYOTA ATLANTIC TITLE IN SEASON FINALE AT MONTREAL'S CIRCUIT GILLES-VILLENEUVE

INDIANAPOLIS (August 24, 2005) -- They've fought each other tooth and nail over the last five months for the top position in the series standings and this weekend Charles Zwolsman (#11 Continental Cartage/Condor Motorsports) and Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) will stage one more battle to determine the champion of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

It's certainly fitting that the two competitors that have claimed the most wins and series pole positions this season will fight it out for the title and it also seems strangely appropriate that the championship fight comes down to the final round as these two classy road racers will square off at the Molson Indy Montreal Atlantic race on Sunday (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel -- Saturday, September 3 at 9 p.m. ET) in the 25th Atlantic event held in the tradition-rich Canadian city.

With a convincing flag-to-flag victory last weekend at Road America, Kasemets ensured that the championship would be decided at this weekend's season finale. He produced the maximum amount of points available in the penultimate round of competition (35) and he also needed Zwolsman to struggle -- something that hasn't happened much in the Dutchman's magical rookie season -- in order to have shot in Montreal. With Zwolsman coming home sixth in his first experience racing at Road America, Kasemets converted his third series pole into his third victory of the season, drawing to within 26 points (287-261) of his series rival with one race to go.

Kasemets, the 31-year-old second-year Atlantic driver who hails from Parnu, Estonia, knows he's got another mountain of points to climb in order to catch Zwolsman, who also owns three wins and leads the series with five poles this season. Both drivers are also aware, however, that anything can happen on the fast and challenging 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve road circuit. Neither Zwolsman or Kasemets has raced on the tough track before and while all eyes will be focused on the only two racers in the field that can win the crown, both title hopefuls will be dueling it out with some talented competition that has experience at the track and has a lot at stake in where they finish in the championship standings.

Canada's Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design), who won earlier this year on home soil in Toronto, competed at the classic road circuit in the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series event. His race experience didn't last long as he exited due to contact on his first lap, but he does know the course well and the native of nearby St. Bruno, Quebec that currently sits fourth in the series standings would like nothing better than to end the season on the Victory Podium at his home track.

Although she hasn't raced at Montreal before, Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing), Bessette's Polestar Racing Group teammate, will also be looking for a solid close to the 2005 season. She's re-written the record books this season as the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America. Currently third in points after her fifth podium of the season last weekend in Road America, Legge already has one Canadian win to her credit this season with a victory in Edmonton to go along with trips to Victory Circle in Long Beach and San Jose.

One driver who might've figured in the championship battle if it weren't for an unfortunate accident last weekend, Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors), will be missing from the Atlantic lineup in Montreal. Wirth suffered minor fractures to two of his vertebrae in a late morning warm-up crash on race day in Road America. The talented German rookie, who was second in the point standings and poised to start second in last Sunday's event at the time of the crash, was unable to race with his injuries and will not compete this weekend. With two top-five finishes at Montreal last season en route to his Formula BMW USA championship, Wirth certainly would've been one to watch this weekend.

Mexico's David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) arrives in Montreal as one of the hottest drivers in the championship and he also carries a Montreal racing resume into this weekend's action. Martinez has finished on the podium in three of the last five events, including a third-place result last weekend, and he qualified fourth in the 2003 Barber Dodge race in Montreal before his day ended early due to contact. Look for Martinez to run at the front of the pack as he tries to improve on his sixth-place standing in the championship before the final checkered flag of '05.

Young American racers Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) and Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com) have also been coming on strong as of late. Unser, 22, equaled his career-best finish of fourth place at Road America and he's another driver that's tested the limits of the Villeneuve circuit. He earned his top result of his rookie Atlantic season at the venue, finishing eighth, and he also competed in the '03 Barber Dodge race. Kelley, the 20-year-old California-based racer, earned his second top-five result of the season at Road America when he soared from an 11th-place starting spot to finish fifth. Kelley will see his first action at Montreal at the Molson Indy.

Veteran owner/driver Eric Jensen (#2 Konica Minolta/Gehl), who lives in Montreal, will race in his seventh Atlantic race at his home venue. Last season, Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) raced at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for the first time in his Atlantic career and he earned a top-10 result. The second-year racer returns this weekend for his eighth start of the season. British Columbia native Chris Souliotis (#56 Speedway Motors) will make his first Atlantic start at Montreal this weekend.

In the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup class, experienced Atlantic driver Bob Siska (#18 RJS Motorsports) is preparing for his seventh series race in Montreal while rookie Lee Atkins (#48 Advanced Medical, Inc.) and Canadian racer Daryl Leiski (#63 Speedway Motors), fresh of his first C2 win of the year at Road America, will make their first Montreal starts.

The competition package at Montreal, and for the final time with a new formula being introduced next season, will feature Atlantic machines comprised of Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. All entries will compete on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

The series weekend lineup calls for the Atlantics to practice for the first time Friday morning from 9:30-10 a.m. Eastern Time. The opening-round of qualifying will be held from 3:15-3:45 p.m. Friday. Morning practice for the Atlantics will run Saturday from 9:15-9:45 a.m. with the final round of qualifying scheduled from 1:15-1:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Sunday, the morning warm-up session will run from 8-8:15 a.m., followed by the final round of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship -- the Molson Indy Montreal Atlantic race -- which will take the green flag at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday. The race is scheduled for 25 laps (67.725 miles) or 50 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Montreal Atlantic event in prime time on Saturday, September 3 beginning at 9 p.m. ET. 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:  Molson Indy Montreal

WHERE: Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
WHEN: Friday-Sunday, August 26-28

TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local):

FRIDAY, AUGUST 26
9:30-10 a.m., Practice
3:15-3:45 p.m., First-Round Qualifying.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 27
9:15-9:45 a.m., Practice; 1:15-1:45 p.m. Final Qualifying.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 28
8-8:15 a.m., Warm-up
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Molson Indy Montreal Toyota Atlantic Race - 9 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay).

2004 MONTREAL RACE CHAMPION: Jon Fogarty
2004 MONTREAL POLESITTER: Jon Fogarty

TRACK LAYOUT:  2.709-mile permanent road course

RACE LENGTH: 13-turn, 25 laps (67.725 miles) or 50 minutes

TRACK RECORDS:
Qualifying (one lap) -- 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 106.190 mph (1:31.839).

Race
(one lap) 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 106.865 mph (1:31.259)
(25 laps) 2004, Jon Fogarty, 103.923 mph (39:06.067).

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

INSTANT REPLAY: In a key battle for the 2004 Atlantic championship, series leader Jon Fogarty edged his main title rival Ryan Dalziel by just .534 of a second to claim his seventh career victory. Fogarty, the '02 Atlantic titlewinner, started from the pole and led all 25 laps for the win in Round 11 of 12 of the '04 season. Fogarty was threatened by Dalziel throughtout the event but he never let up and even overcame a brief off-course voyage late in the race while trying to avoid a lapped car. Dalziel, who had tied Fogarty in the point standings on Friday by leading the opening-round of qualifying, earned a bonus point for the fastest lap of the race on his last turn around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to keep his deficit in the standings behind Fogarty to just five points following the completion of the event. Fogarty would go on to win the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for his second series crown. Fogarty's teammate, Alex Figge, finished third in Montreal while Danica Patrick outdueled Canadian rookie Andrew Ranger for fourth place. Ranger, from nearby Roxton Pond, Quebec, rallied from a seventh-place starting spot to finish fifth. The caution-free race was completed in an Atlantic course record time of 39:06.067.

-atlantic-

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Alex Figge , Bob Siska , Eric Jensen , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Andrew Ranger , Dan Selznick , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Andreas Wirth , Lee Atkins , Chris Souliotis , Daryl Leiski , Al Unser III , Danica Patrick