HINCHCLIFFE LEADS FIRST DAY OF CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC TESTING AT SEBRING SEBRING, Fla. (February 5, 2008) -- The first day of open testing for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at Sebring...
HINCHCLIFFE LEADS FIRST DAY OF CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC TESTING AT SEBRING
SEBRING, Fla. (February 5, 2008) -- The first day of open testing for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at Sebring International Raceway featured a time sheet that was topped by three drivers representing the three countries which will host Champ Car Atlantic races this year.
Leading the way was Canadian James Hinchcliffe (#3 Forsythe Championship Racing) who turned a best lap at 57.449 seconds (104.587 mph) in his return to the Forsythe Atlantic operation after a one-year absence. Second-quickest was American driver Jonathan Bomarito (#6 Sierra Sierra Enterprises), who posted a lap at 57.542 seconds (104.418 mph) in his first official test session with the team that won the 2007 series title. Hinchcliffe's new Forsythe Championship Racing teammate, Mexican driver David Garza (#7 Forsythe Championship Racing), was third on the day at 57.860 seconds (103.844 mph).
Entering his third year of Atlantic competition in 2008, Hinchcliffe is focused on challenging for the series championship. The Canadian racer got that effort off on the right foot in the first official day of on-track activity for Atlantic.
"Obviously, we're pretty happy with the results," Hinchcliffe said. "The team ended the day first and third, so that's a good place to start. Sebring is kind of an enigma in itself, so you can't take too much away from this, but for the sake of the team and for the confidence of both me and David, it's a good place to start. We're looking forward to Long Beach more than anything. We've got two tests still to go, but we know we've got a good package underneath us. Now I just want to go racing."
Bomarito echoed those sentiments following his public debut in the cockpit of the championship-winning No. 6 machine. The American moved to Sierra Sierra Enterprises in the off-season and is entering his fourth year of Atlantic. He too is focused on battling for championship honors.
"It's good so far," Bomarito said. "A lot of the teams have been here in their private testing in weeks previous to this test and we haven't, so we were a little bit behind when we first got here this morning. This afternoon has been awesome. It's a new team for me, joining Sierra Sierra this year, and I'm just working on gelling with the team. I can't tell you how excited I am to get to Long Beach and start the year."
Like Bomarito and Hinchcliffe, Garza also made his official debut with a new team at Sebring, moving from U.S. RaceTronics to Forsythe Championship Racing for his second year of Atlantic action. The move appears to be paying immediate dividends as evidenced by his third-quickest time in Tuesday's test sessions.
"I think we started on the right foot," Garza said. "It's a great confidence booster for our whole team. We worked really hard in the preseason and to come to the first test and be quick, it's just a really good payoff. The whole team is working really great and the car is doing what I want it to do, so it speaks of good things for the team. I'm looking forward to starting racing. Forsythe is such a big organization and everything is so well-prepared. You have so much confidence in the team. I'm very happy to be here."
Fourth-quickest on Tuesday was second-year American driver J.R. Hildebrand (#17 Genoa Racing) at 57.981 seconds (103.627 mph). Finnish rookie Markus Niemela (#8 Brooks Associates Racing) impressively completed the top five with a best lap at 57.997 seconds (103.598 mph).
A total of 24 drivers combined to complete 1,266 laps (2112.954 miles) on Tuesday, and the top 11 drivers were covered by less than one second. The test sessions were run under unseasonably warm weather conditions with no major incidents. Testing continues on Wednesday.