FAIRFIELD, N.J. (March 16, 1999) -- Reigning U.S. F2000 National Champion David Besnard has finalized a contract to contest the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship with Hylton Motorsports.

Besnard, of Sydney, Australia, will begin testing with the team today at Buttonwillow in preparation for the 12-race Toyota Atlantic season which kicks-off at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 17.

"I'm obviously very excited to be moving up to the Toyota Atlantic Championship," said Besnard, 22. "Hylton Motorsports is an organization with an extreme amount of talent and potential, and our goal is to win not only races, but the championship."

Besnard will be joined by the 1998 F2000 Engineer of the Year John Hayes, of Primus Racing. Hayes comes to Hylton Motorsports on a roll, having won the F2000 title in 1997 with Zak Morioka and 1998 with Besnard. Hayes will continue to work with the Primus team in F2000 competition this year.

"Working with John Hayes last year was an important part of our championship run," said Besnard. "Having him as part of the team in 1999 is a big boost to our title hopes. We built a great working relationship last season which should carry over into Atlantics nicely."

"We were very impressed with David when we tested him at Buttonwillow earlier this year," team owner Keith Hylton said. "He took to the car quickly and worked well with the team. I think David is very special. We're looking to him to bring the team its first Atlantic win."

Besnard's 1998 campaign broke series' records for wins (eight), poles (eight), points (363) and purse ($64,750). His success garnered an immense amount of media and industry attention, and in December, he became the first F2000 driver to be named to the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association All-American First Team, joining the likes of Alex Zanardi, Kenny Brack, Jeff Gordon and John Force.

Besnard's 1999 Toyota Atlantic will be sponsored by Kohassett Records, featuring artist Monica Marie and her debut album. Additional support comes from u.s. print, Pocklington Coach Works, Valvoline, Herman-Miller, Beta Tools, Dominator, Sparco and Bell Helmets.

Word of Besnard's signing first hit the press at the Australian Grand Prix, where he served as a race ambassador by entertaining corporate guests. Besnard was involved in photo shoots with countryman and sports car star Mark Weber and Formula One star Jacques Villeneuve.