Toronto: Round eight preview

MATOS AND PERERA AMONG THOSE LOOKING TO BREAK CANADIAN AND AMERICAN WIN STREAK WITH CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC VICTORY IN STEELBACK GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO INDIANAPOLIS (July 4, 2007) -- The Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship ...

MATOS AND PERERA AMONG THOSE LOOKING TO BREAK CANADIAN AND AMERICAN WIN STREAK WITH CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC VICTORY IN STEELBACK GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO

INDIANAPOLIS (July 4, 2007) -- The Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda has raced on the streets around Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition Place 16 times previously and all 16 races have been won by drivers hailing from either Canada or the United States.

Points leader Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Brazil and French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsports) will be among the drivers looking to end that streak in Sunday's Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto (ESPN360.com, Live, 10:00 a.m. ET). Matos owns four victories from the season's first seven races with Sierra Sierra Enterprises, while Perera--driving for Condor Motorsports--picked up his first career Atlantic victory last weekend at Mont-Tremblant. Both drivers clearly rate among the favorites this weekend in Toronto.

However, there are a host of Canadian and American drivers who are plenty capable of extending the streak this weekend. Two Canadian rookies, Toronto's Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) and Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) have already visited Victory Lane this season as well. Wickens, driving for Red Bull Team Forsythe, earned his first win in a soggy Mazda Grand Prix of Portland last month in the first race of an Atlantic doubleheader. On the following day, Lacroix--making just his second Atlantic start with Brooks Associates Racing and competing on his first Atlantic race weekend--picked up his maiden victory in the series.

The driver both Wickens and Lacroix beat to the checkered flag in Portland was another Canadian, Toronto's James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks). Hinchcliffe started from the pole position for both races in Portland and finished second in each race. He owns podium results in four of his past five Atlantic starts, including a third-place performance last weekend at Mont-Tremblant behind Perera and Sierra Sierra teammate Matos, but he would love nothing more than to score his first win of the 2007 season in front of his hometown fans.

Joining Wickens, Lacroix and Hinchcliffe in flying the Canadian flag this weekend are rookie Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports) from Coquitlam, British Columbia and Edmonton's Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor/Earthwater).

Forest's PR1 Motorsports teammate, Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) rates as one of the top American drivers in the series and also rates among the favorites this weekend. Bomarito has finished inside the top-four positions in four of seven starts this season, including a fourth-place performance last weekend at Mont-Tremblant. He will be making his third Atlantic start on the streets of Toronto this weekend with a best result of second after starting second last year.

Another American to watch this weekend is rookie J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing). Hildebrand started from the pole and won both races of a Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 doubleheader at Toronto last year and picked up an Atlantic career-best result of second at Cleveland two weeks ago.

American rookie Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) also owns a runner-up result in 2007 Atlantic competition with a second-place performance in Round 3 at Houston. The US RaceTronics driver comes into the Toronto weekend riding a streak of six consecutive points-paying results. He is joined on the two-car team by Mexican rookie David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT).

This weekend's field will include a total of 11 American drivers. Joining Bomarito, Hildebrand and Skerlong are rookie teammates Tom Sutherland (#2 Drive Energy Soda) and actor-turned-racer Frankie Muniz (#13 Chandler Development) with the Montreal-based Jensen MotorSport, 16-year-old John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) of Red Bull Team Forsythe, Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) of Genoa Racing, Condor Motorsports rookie Brian Thienes (#19 Thienes Engineering), Atlantic veterans Alan Sciuto (#20 The Room Store of Phoenix) of Alan Sciuto Racing and Mathiasen Motorsports driver Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments) and Conquest Racing rookie Matt Lee (#44 Integrated Structures).

Lee matched his Atlantic career-best result last weekend at Mont-Tremblant with a 10th-place run and is joined on the Conquest team by another favorite to break the Canadian-American win streak, Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global). Ricci qualified an Atlantic career-best third last weekend at Mont-Tremblant and was poised for a podium result before running out of fuel on the final lap and ending up sixth. Nevertheless, Ricci has four top-eight results in seven starts.

Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro (#5 Miauton) is the only woman in the field and heads to Toronto on the heels of her best Atlantic result to date, a seventh-place run, at Mont-Tremblant. She is joined on the two-car Walker Racing team by Englishman Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI Solutions/Insport), who posted a season-best third-place performance in the first half of the Portland doubleheader last month and finished third in his first Atlantic start at Toronto last year.

Also contributing to the international flair will be Dutch rookie Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) on the three-car Condor Motorsports team. Strous has scored points in five of his six Atlantic starts this season with a best result of sixth in the season-opening race in Las Vegas. He sat out Round 3 at Houston due to a wrist injury sustained in Round 2 at Long Beach.

All Atlantic cars are Swift 016.a Atlantic chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each entry will ride on new Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires throughout the weekend.

On-track activities for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship at the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto get underway on Friday morning with practice from 11:05 to 11:50 a.m. ET, followed by provisional qualifying from 2:35 to 3:10 p.m. Saturday's schedule calls for another practice session from 11:05 to 11:50 a.m., with final qualifying slated for 2:35 to 3:10 p.m. and a driver autograph session beginning at 5:00 p.m.

Sunday's race day schedule will see the Atlantic machines on-course for a 15-minute warm-up session beginning at 8:00 a.m., and Round 8 of the 12-race Atlantic calendar will roll off from a standing start at 10:00 a.m. The timed race will be 50 minutes in length.

In addition to live coverage on ESPN360.com, ESPN2 will carry a 30-minute tape-delayed telecast of the Atlantic action from Toronto at 5:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 11. It will also air to U.S. service men and women in over 130 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service.

For additional information, and to watch all of this season's races on demand, visit the official web site of North America's premier open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.

COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA

STEELBACK GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO

MEDIA TIP SHEET

* All To Themselves: The 16 previous Atlantic races contested at Canadian National Exhibition Place have all been won by drivers from either Canada or the United States, and the wins have been divided evenly between the two countries. The eight previous Canadian winners are David Empringham (1992), Claude Bourbonnais (1993), Patrick Carpentier (1996), Alex Tagliani (1998), Andrew Bordin (2000), David Rutledge (2001), Michael Valiante (2002) and Antoine Bessette (2005). Seven Americans account for eight Toronto victories, with two-time winner Richie Hearn (1994 and 1995) being joined by Freddy Rhemrev (1990), Stuart Crow (1991), Memo Gidley (1997), A.J. Allmendinger (2003), Jon Fogarty (2004) and Robbie Pecorari (2006).

* Cranking It Up: This weekend's Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto completes a grueling stretch of three races in a row for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship. The final eight events will be completed in a span of seven weeks between Cleveland on June 24 and the season finale at Road America on August 12. After this weekend, the Atlantic series takes a weekend off before returning to action with a doubleheader in Edmonton on July 21 and 22. The penultimate round of the championship slated for July 29 in San Jose.

* Fantastic Full Field: With 24 cars entered to start this weekend's race, it will mark eighth consecutive events with 24 entries or more for the Atlantics to start the year. April's race at Long Beach featured 30 cars -- the most for the series since the Montreal event in 1999.

* Who's Hot: Points leader Raphael Matos picked up his fifth podium result of the season last weekend at Mont-Tremblant and owns a total of four victories in 2007. He won the first three races of the season at Las Vegas, Long Beach and Houston and picked up his fourth win two weeks ago in Cleveland. He has not finished worse than sixth in any event this season. He has also led every lap in all three races that he started from the pole position. French rookie Franck Perera is the only driver in the 2007 season to have finished every race inside the top-five positions and earned his first career Atlantic win last weekend at Mont-Tremblant. Canadian James Hinchcliffe has not finished worse than seventh in any race this season and has finished on the podium in four of his last five starts. He is still looking for his first win of the season.

* O Canada: This weekend's Champ Car Atlantic field will feature five Canadian drivers. Toronto natives James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens will drive for Sierra Sierra Enterprises and Red Bull Team Forsythe, respectively, while Saint-Eustache, Quebec native Kevin Lacroix is entered for Brooks Associates Racing. Edmonton's Mike Forest will drive for PR1 Motorsports and Coquitlam, British Columbia's Adrien Herberts is entered for Paladin Motorsports. In addition, the Jensen MotorSport team--which fields American drivers Frankie Muniz and Tom Sutherland--is based in Montreal.

* We Are The Champions: Champions from some of the top developmental series from around the world will compete in Atlantics this season. Nearly all of the open-wheel training grounds in North America will feature last season's champions competing in Atlantics in '07 including the Star Mazda Series (Adrian Carrio), Formula BMW USA (Robert Wickens), FF2000 (J.R. Hildebrand) and Formula TR 2000 (Carl Skerlong). In addition, rookie Giacomo Ricci claimed the F3000 Italian and Euro titles in 2006. Atlantics will also include race winners and standout competitors from not only these formulas but also from the Skip Barber National Championship and top international series including A1GP, GP2 and European Formula Renault.

* Youth is Served: It's safe to say that the '07 Atlantic field is the youngest in series history. Among the 24 drivers expected to compete this weekend at Toronto, the median age is just 21.5 years. If you remove from the equation 44-year-old Brian Thienes, the average age for the rest of the field is just 20.5 years. This includes 12 series racers who will line up for this weekend's races as teenagers. The youngest of them all is John Edwards of Red Bull Team Forsythe, who is 16.

* Rookies Aplenty: The ever-growing youth in the series translates into a very deep rookie class for 2007. Out of the 24 expected entries this weekend 17 of those drivers are considered rookies for this season. The battle for series Rookie of the Year honors is expected to be almost as heated as the fight for the overall series crown. Franck Perera currently leads the rookie standings with 166 points, just five ahead of Robert Wickens.

* Going Global: The international appeal of Atlantic racing has also never been more evident than in 2007. Drivers representing at least nine different countries are expected to be in action this weekend including competitors from the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Brazil.

* American Pride: Despite such a diverse cultural background among the series drivers, the future of American open-wheel racing is just as bright as ever as evidenced by the U.S. talent in Atlantics. Eleven drivers hail from the United States.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto

WHERE: Canadian National Exhibition Place -- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local, ET):

FRIDAY, JULY 6 -- Practice: 11:05 -- 11:50 a.m., First Round Qualifying: 2:35 -- 3:10 p.m.

SATURDAY, JULY 7 -- Practice: 11:05 -- 11:50 a.m., Final Qualifying: 2:35 -- 3:10 p.m.

SUNDAY, JULY 8 -- Warm-Up: 8:00 -- 8:15 a.m., Race: 10:00 a.m. -- 11:00 p.m.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 11 -- ESPN2, Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, 5:00 p.m. ET

TRACK LAYOUT:  1.755-mile temporary street circuit

RACE LENGTH: 50-minute time limit

TRACK RECORDS (based on current layout):

Qualifying (one lap) -- 7/12/03, A.J. Allmendinger, 1:04.920, 97.320 mph

Race (one lap) -- 7/8/06, Graham Rahal, 1:05.487, 96.480 mph

Race (38 laps) -- 7/9/06, Robbie Pecorari, 45:08.363, 88.645 mph

RACE ROUND: Round 8 of 12 in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda

NEXT RACE: Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton (doubleheader), July 21-22

-credit: ccws/atl

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Memo Gidley , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Jon Fogarty , Richie Hearn , Graham Rahal , Michael Valiante , David Rutledge , A.J. Allmendinger , Andrew Bordin , Jonathan Bomarito , Antoine Bessette , Claude Bourbonnais , Robbie Pecorari , Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , Adrian Carrio , Robert Wickens , Kevin Lacroix , Adrien Herberts , Alan Sciuto , Tom Sutherland , James Hinchcliffe , David Garza , Brian Thienes , Carl Skerlong , J.R. Hildebrand , Giacomo Ricci , John Edwards , Mike Forest , Franck Perera , Frankie Muniz , Matt Lee
Teams Conquest Racing