Toronto preview

Montreal, Canada, July 8, 2003 -- The streets of Toronto, Canada will be the stage this weekend of Round 6 of the 2003 North American Fran-Am Pro Championship - a professional racing series designed to provide young, up-and-coming drivers all the...

Montreal, Canada, July 8, 2003 -- The streets of Toronto, Canada will be the stage this weekend of Round 6 of the 2003 North American Fran-Am Pro Championship - a professional racing series designed to provide young, up-and-coming drivers all the necessary tools and support to become the next Formula 1 and ChampCar World Series' stars. For the first time in the history of the Fran-Am Pro Championship, the competitors will tackle the 1.75-mile street circuit that features hard braking zones, narrow corners surrounded by concrete walls and the infamous Lakeshore Boulevard long straightaway where the cars will reach a top speed of 250 km/h.

The points battle is hotly disputed as only four points separate the top three drivers. The 2003 series is extremely well balanced as no driver has won more than once so far this season. The first five events were won by five different drivers. In Toronto, the Fran-Am Pro Championship begins a series of four consecutive races held in conjunction with high profile, World ChampCar Series events: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Denver.

Current points leader is Great Britain's Robert Bell, the 24-year old driver of Team FirstAir. Bell -- the winner of Round 3 held in Montreal at the Air Canada F1 Grand Prix in June -- has been extremely consistent so far this season, having finished all races but one on the podium. Bell intends to become the first two-time race winner of the season in Toronto.

Second in the standings is Charles Hall of Sheffield, Great Britain who's just one point behind fellow countryman Bell. Hall, who drives for the Canadian team Autotecnica based in Mississauga, won Round 2 held in Birmingham, Alabama. Like Bell, Hall finished all races but one on the podium. The 20-year old Hall is quite good on street courses. He's won the last Fran-Am race to be held on a street course - it was Round 4 of the Fran-Am World Winter Series in St. Petersburg, Florida this past February.

Canadian Andrew Ranger is currently third in the standings, just four points down to Bell and three to Hall. The 16-year old wonder kind won his first race in Montreal at the F1 Grand Prix and has shown impressive maturity and car control for a racer fresh out of international karting. Ranger, from Roxton Pond, Quebec drives for the other Canadian Fran-Am team, AIM Autosport based in Toronto.

By finishing fifth in Round 5 held in Watkins Glen, Argentina's Juan Martin Ponte climbed up to fourth place in the standings. The 18-year old driver of Team Eurointernational has not been as consistent as the other top three drivers so far this season but he hopes to clinch his first victory of the season in the streets of Toronto.

Mexico's Aurelio Lopez Jr of Guadalajara, Canadian Mark Wilkins of Toronto and Americans Tim Barber and Dominic Cicero are also potential race winners. Marc-Antoine Camirand, the Quebec driver who won Round 5 held in Watkins Glen, N.Y. will also be in the hunt for victory this weekend. Camirand is - with Kuno Wittmer and Wilkins - the only drivers to have previous experience around the tricky Toronto street course.

Finally, nineteen-year old Valerie Limoges of Longueuil, Quebec will contest her third Fran-Am race in career. The first female driver to ever take the start of a Fran-Am Pro race hopes to finish higher than the 17th position she posted in Round 3 held in Montreal.

The Fran-Am Sport Pro North American Championship is a professional formula car developmental racing series designed to hone the driving skills of the up and coming road racers. Each race features a U.S. $28,500 Michelin International supported cash prize fund, with the overall series champion winning a fully paid ride in the Euro Cup Formula Renault V6 series in Europe next year.

The Fran-Am Pro open wheel car features a spec carbon-fibre monocoque chassis, a sealed 2.0-litre/186-horsepower four cylinder engine, front and rear wings, a six-speed sequential gearbox and spec-Michelin Sport slick racing tires.

-fran am-

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Marc-Antoine Camirand , Aurelio Lopez , Charles Hall , Kuno Wittmer , Dominic Cicero , Tim Barber , Juan Martin Ponte , Andrew Ranger , Mark Wilkins , Valérie Limoges