Polestar signs Antoine Bessette

RISING CANADIAN RACING STAR ANTOINE BESSETTE JOINS 2005 TOYOTA ATLANTIC FIELD INDIANAPOLIS (March 22, 2005) -- Talented Canadian open-wheel racers have been a staple of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama throughout the ...

RISING CANADIAN RACING STAR ANTOINE BESSETTE JOINS 2005 TOYOTA ATLANTIC FIELD

INDIANAPOLIS (March 22, 2005) -- Talented Canadian open-wheel racers have been a staple of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama throughout the 31-year history of the series. The Canadian tradition will continue with today's announcement that Quebec native Antoine Bessette will join Polestar Racing Group for the 32nd season of Atlantic competition with a full-season entry for the upcoming 2005 campaign.

After testing an Atlantic car with both Brooks Associates Racing and Sierra Sierra Enterprises during the last several months, Bessette showed the talent and speed to compete in North America's top open-wheel development series. He has found a home with the Chardon, Ohio-based Polestar team and the promising racer feels he has the opportunity to compete for the series title in his first season on the Atlantic grid.

"Racing in the Toyota Atlantic Championship is a dream come true for me," said Bessette. "The series has such a top reputation and is so highly regarded. I am very excited and proud to be part of it. On top of all that, I get to run for a top team with a top engineer. I hear (team owner) Jim Griffith is one of the best engineers in the racing world. It's strange because I signed up with a team that I didn't even test with, but because of Jim's reputation, I have complete faith in this team."

The 23-year-old Bessette, who differs from many of today's racing stars because he did not come up through the karting ranks, has experienced his share of success, despite only racing competitively for the past three years. In his first complete season in 2002, he ran in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Midwest and East Divisions, posting five wins in 16 races. He competed in both Formula Ford 1600 cars and the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 2003 and last season he excelled in the North American Formula Renault series finishing third in the championship with three podiums and a victory at Alabama's Barber Motorsports Park.

"It's great to finally bring Antoine aboard. We've been talking to him and his family about putting something together for a couple of years now," said Polestar Racing Group team owner Jim Griffith. "He's got a great attitude about racing and a great personality. He's actually not a typical young driver because he started racing in cars and I think it's a testament to his skill and work ethic that he's been able to accomplish all that he has without that background in karting."

A native of St. Bruno, Quebec, Bessette hopes to add his name to a long list of French Canadian drivers that have excelled in the Atlantic series including such talented stars as Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Claude Bourbonnais, Patrick Carpentier and most recently Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger.

Bessette will pilot the #3 Toyota/Swift/Yokohama for Polestar this season, running with sponsorship from Unik Auto Design at the opening race of the year in Long Beach. He'll join recently announced British female racer Katherine Legge on the third-year team. Bessette and Legge raced against each other last season in the North American Formula Renault series.

"When I ran with Katherine last year she was always in the top five or six drivers," added Bessette. "She's a very good driver, she's fast and it makes no difference to me whether you're a girl or a guy, as long as you're fast. I'm glad to have her as a teammate. I know we'll get along real well."

Both racers will spend two full days of testing at Arizona's Firebird road circuit at the end of this month as they prepare to come out of the gates quickly when the 2005 season gets underway April 8-10 at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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 stars Alex Tagliani, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andrew Ranger are also established Toyota Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year and 2003 Atlantic champion A.J. Allmendinger.

For more information on the Atlantic series, please visit www.toyotaatlantic.com. To learn more about Antoine Bessette, log on to www.bessetteracing.com.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Danny Sullivan , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Skip Barber , Antoine Bessette , Andrew Ranger