ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP CONTINUES TO PROVIDE SOLID GROUND FOR CHAMP CAR'S FUTURE INDIANAPOLIS (February 28, 2007) -- As the beginning of the 2007 season approaches, both the present of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and the future of the...
ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP CONTINUES TO PROVIDE SOLID GROUND FOR CHAMP CAR'S FUTURE
INDIANAPOLIS (February 28, 2007) -- As the beginning of the 2007 season approaches, both the present of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and the future of the Champ Car World Series couldn't be brighter.
Following a thrilling 2006 season Atlantic series season that brought a return to glory for North America's premiere open-wheel development formula, the stage is set for an even more exciting campaign in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. And Atlantic is poised to continue feeding the pipeline of racing talent directly into Champ Car.
Atlantics has long been established as the top training ground for the future stars of Champ Car. Such well-established drivers as Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier and A.J. Allmendinger, just to name a few, all came up through the Atlantic ranks on their way to Champ Car stardom.
In 2006, the Atlantic Championship continued to produce the next generation of Champ Car World Series standout racers as '05 Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman and three-time Atlantic race-winner Katherine Legge graduated to Champ Car. They were joined at the top level of American open-wheel racing last season by other recent Atlantic series stalwarts Andreas Wirth, Tonis Kasemets and David Martinez. In addition to proud Atlantic graduates Vasser, Tracy, Tagliani and Allmendinger, 2004 Atlantic Rookie of the Year Andrew Ranger also starred in Champ Car last season.
With the lineup for 2007 still coming together for Champ Car, another host of Atlantic grads are ready to carry on the tradition of success at the next level. The dynamic duo of rookie teammates Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge will enter Champ Car this season with former Atlantic team Pacific Coast Motorsports. The Scotsman Dalziel is a six-time Atlantic race-winner who finished as series runner up in both 2003 and '04. American racer Figge also scored a victory in Atlantics, competing in the series from 2002-04.
After emerging as the winner of a hotly-contested Atlantic title fight last season, Simon Pagenaud of France claimed the first $2 million Atlantic champion's bonus to compete in Champ Car in 2007. Pagenaud is a perfect example of a driver ascending the developmental ladder as he moves from the Team Australia Atlantic program up to the squad's Champ Car team as a rookie this season.
As one of Champ Car's brightest stars, Legge -- who became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America when she captured three Atlantic checkered flags in '05 -- has looked strong in pre-season testing and she also plans to return to the Champ Car grid in 2007.
After leading the Atlantic Championship with five victories and four poles while nearly claiming the series title as a teenager in '06, Graham Rahal has also proven to be a force in Champ Car testing this off-season. The 18-year-old American rising star and son of former Champ Car and Atlantic legend Bobby Rahal is also expected to move up to the Champ Car level in '07.
It's hard to imagine a deeper or more talented field than what was on display in the 2006 Atlantic series -- a championship that featured seven different race winners, five separate pole winners and a battle for the title that came down to the final race of the year. But the 2007 Atlantic season is shaping up to be even more exciting.
With more than 25 of the world's top young drivers pushing the limits of the 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper Atlantic machines over the first two series open tests of the year, the competition looks to be as fierce as any of the previous 33 seasons of Atlantic racing.
There will be plenty of Champ Car hopefuls to keep an eye on this season as they tackle the 12-race championship on the Atlantic circuit. From such promising young American racers as John Edwards of Red Bull Team Forsythe, J.R. Hildebrand of Newman Wachs Racing, Conquest Racing's Matt Lee, Jonathan Bomarito of PR1 Motorsports, US RaceTronics' Carl Skerlong, Adrian Carrio of Genoa Racing and actor-turned-driver Frankie Muniz of Jensen MotorSport to Canadian series standouts James Hinchcliffe of Sierra Sierra Enterprises, Robert Wickens of Red Bull Team Forsythe and PR1 Motorsports' Mike Forest and international Atlantic talent like Brazilian Raphael Matos of Sierra Sierra Enterprises, US RaceTronics driver David Garza of Mexico, Italy's Giacomo Ricci of Conquest Racing and female racer Simona De Silvestro of Switzerland and Walker Racing, the cupboard is full of developing young guns anxious to make their mark.
With such a consistent flow of talent graduating annually from the Atlantic series, combined with the steady influx of top-flight international drivers, the future of Champ Car racing is certainly on solid ground.
The full Atlantic field will once again be on display next week as the series hosts it final pre-season, two-day open test at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, March 7-8, as part of Champ Car's Spring Training. The 2007 season officially gets underway at the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix on the downtown streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, April 6-8.