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The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Round 10, Molson Indy Vancouver August 31- September 2, 2001, Concord Pacific Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada Event: Round 10 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on the 1.781-mile ...

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship
Round 10, Molson Indy Vancouver
August 31- September 2, 2001, Concord Pacific Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Event: Round 10 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on the 1.781-mile temporary street circuit at Concord Pacific Place, as Sunday's opening race at the Molson Indy Vancouver. Sunday's race will mark the 11th time since 1990, the Atlantic series has competed on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Race Series: The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART's "Ladder System", and is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART Champ car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.

Atlantic Schedule at Vancouver:

Friday, August 31:
Practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:15 a.m.
Qualifying 3:15 p.m. -- 3:45 p.m.

Saturday, Sep. 1:
Practice 9:10 a.m. -- 9:40 a.m.
Qualifying 1:00 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sep 2:
Warm-Up 9:20 a.m. -- 9:35 a.m.
RACE 11:15 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m. (38 laps/67.678 miles)

Race: At the half-way point of the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, Vancouver, Preview: Canada's David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) held a four-point lead over Brazil's Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift. Orsi went on a tear the following three races collecting the maximum amount of points allowed at each event. A run of poles and victories at Chicago, Trois-Rivieres, and Road America has put Orsi in position to clinch the 2001 Championship at the Molson Indy Vancouver this weekend.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will compete on Vancouver's 1.781-mile temporary street course at Concord Pacific Place for the 11th time since 1990. Canadian drivers have been strong on home soil spraying champagne from the top of the podium in eight of the ten events to date. American driver, William Langhorne won in 1999 and joined fellow countryman, Memo Gidley, as the only other drivers other than Canadians to win on the streets of Vancouver. The flag to flag victory at Road America put Orsi in elite company in Atlantic Championship history. Only two other drivers have won three races in a row dating back to the 1990 season, and both of those have moved on to winning in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Jimmy Vasser won three in a row in 1991 while Patrick Carpentier won an amazing eight straight during his 1996 Championship season.

Heading into the Round 10 race at the Molson Indy Vancouver, Orsi holds a 47-point lead over Rutledge and has mathematically closed out the rest of the CTAC field. With a win or, in most every case, just finishing ahead of Rutledge, Orsi can clinch the Championship with two races still remaining on the schedule. For Rutledge to stay in the hunt, he will most likely have to win or podium in the remaining three races at Vancouver, Houston, and Laguna Seca along with Orsi finishing out of the top three, something that has only happened once in the first nine races of the season.

"Winning in Vancouver is my absolute priority right now," said a determined Rutledge. "There is nothing else on my mind, and I am spending every waking minute of every day working with the team, going over data from previous races and developing a comprehensive plan to make sure we have a dominant car. That said, we'll approach the Molson Indy Vancouver like we've approached every race, one lap at a time. We never set out to win the championship -- we set out to do as well as possible in every race."

After three-quarters of the season in the rear view mirror, Orsi has five wins coming at Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago, Trois-Rivieres, and Road America. Orsi has also collected three runner-up finishes at Long Beach, Nazareth, and Toronto. The only dent in Orsi's and the Hylton Motorsports silver armor was a DNF in Montreal after the gearbox on his Swift failed early in the race.

Rutledge has racked up three wins this season as well, all coming during the first half of the season. (Long Beach, Montreal, and Toronto). While Orsi was collecting checkered flags in rounds seven through nine, Rutledge struggled finishing out of the top-10 twice, allowing Orsi to stretch his Championship points lead out. Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) has been the only other driver to post a victory this season outside of Orsi and Rutledge. Ave won from the pole in the second race of the season at Nazareth but has only visited the podium once, at Chicago, since that win.

Starting the race from the pole is always beneficial to a driver's chances, but it has even been more of an advantage during the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Seven of the season's nice races have been won from the pole. Rutledge and Orsi have done it three times each and Ave going flag to flag once.

"It does seem like qualifying on the pole is more important than in previous seasons," said Rutledge. "I suspect it's because Hoover and I have pulled away from the field a bit and so one of us is going to be on the pole, and that one will probably win. I'd like to think we could qualify farther back and still have a chance to win, but every time that happens Hoover pulls away until there's no chance of catching him."

Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) stands in third place in the Championship with 87 points, 22 behind the second place Rutledge. Even though a chance at the Championship is over, Basso is still gunning for his first win of the season and a chance to take second away from Rutledge. Basso is the only driver this year that has completed every lap run during this season's first nine races. (382 laps) Ave, who was in the thick of the Championship fight during the middle of the season, has slid into a fifth place tie after two consecutive DNFs at Trois-Rivieres and Road America.

Heading into the final quarter of the season, the Rookie of the Year Championship is up for grabs and appears that this one will go down to the wire. Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) and Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift) have separated themselves from the rest of the Atlantic rookies, but not enough that either of them can afford to relax. Hand leads the first-year drivers with 70 points (fourth overall) with Macri just trailing by one at 69 points (tied fifth overall with Ave). Both drivers have knocked on the Orsi's victory door this year. Hand finished runner-up to the five-time winner in a last lap battle at Cleveland, while Macri collected his second place behind Orsi two weeks ago at Road America.

"We really want to win at least one of these last three races," said DSTP rookie, Joey Hand. "Not just because we've been in the position to challenge for most of the season, but also because it would be good momentum to take us through the off-season. At a minimum, I want to be running in the top three at every race. Typically, if you're running in a podium spot you always have a chance to win. There hasn't been a rookie winner yet this year, and I'd definitely like it to be me." Hand continues. "Winning the rookie title is our biggest goal right now. While we also have a shot at third place overall, we're really shooting for second. It's a tougher goal, but it isn't out of reach. As long as we keep running toward the front and nothing bad happens to take us out of contention, we'll keep pushing for the rest of the season."

"For the last three races, I would like to continue to be consistent and fast to finish in the top three," said Ontario, Canada's Jonathan Macri. "Being in contention one point behind for the Rookie of the Year title, I don't want to make any moves that would jeopardize any valuable points. Although if the win is close I will be there to capitalize on it."

Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift), Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing/Italian Motors Swift), and Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift) are still in the rookie hunt as well. The trio are only between 20 and 23 points behind the lead freshman pair, and with three races remaining, they are far from out of a chance win the Rookie of the Year title. Lavin has had a steady year with one podium finish coming at Nazareth. Ryley won the pole at Milwaukee and finished second following that with another podium at Toronto, but has been bitten by the bad luck bug all season. Vancouver's Valiante has only run in four races this season, finishing no worse than sixth including a second place showing at Montreal.

After placing fourth at Road America, T.J. Bell (Cobb Racing Swift) has moved up to seventh in points, and has a good chance of moving up to as high as fourth which Joey Hand currently occupies. After getting the season off to a slow start, Bell has accumulated three top-five finishes including his first career podium at Cleveland.

Television: ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Sunday's Round 10 race from Broadcasts: Vancouver on Sunday, September 9, at 10:00 a.m. ET, and Saturday, September 8, at 4:00 p.m. ET respectively, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on dates to be announced shortly. ESPN2 will replay the race on Friday, September 21, at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Race Video: CART Toyota Atlantic highlights from the Molson Indy Vancouver, Sunday, September Highlights: 02, 2001 will be included in the following VNR (Video News Release):

** The Toyota Atlantic segment is approximately ½ way into the VNR.

Next Race: The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will take a short break before finishing out the season in early October with races in Houston, Texas, and Monterey, California.

-CART/ATLANTIC-

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Richie Hearn , Martin Basso , Tony Ave , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , T.J. Bell , Danny Sullivan , Rodolfo Lavin , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing