Highland Park, Ill. (December 20, 2000) -- The calendar has not even turned over to the year 2001; yet, the seeds are being planted for what looks to be one of the most competitive seasons ever. With the start of the 2001 season less than four...
Highland Park, Ill. (December 20, 2000) -- The calendar has not even turned over to the year 2001; yet, the seeds are being planted for what looks to be one of the most competitive seasons ever. With the start of the 2001 season less than four months away, a strong group of veterans and a bumper crop of rookies are preparing to fight it out for the championship.
The top returning driver from this past season will be Martin Basso who will once again pilot for Michael Shank Racing. Basso, who hails from Argentina, returns after a stellar rookie season which included a win at The Milwaukee Mile and record setting pole run at Road America. Basso finished fourth in points; and at this time will be the highest finisher in the 2000 season to return.
"I'm really looking forward to having the opportunity to fight for the Atlantic championship with Michael Shank Racing in 2001," said Basso. "Our plan from the very beginning was to learn about the cars and the tracks in year one, and to try to go for the championship in year two, and I think we're in a position right now to do that. We've been doing a lot of testing for next year and I feel very comfortable with the car and the team, and I think we'll be really strong beginning at Long Beach in April."
Rocky Moran Jr. , who drove for P-1 Racing last season and finished fifth in points will most likely be returning for this upcoming season. Although no formal announcement has been made as of yet, it looks to be a lock that Rocky will return. Moran Jr. was the only driver during the 2000 campaign to complete every lap that made up the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.
On a steady climb in Atlantic competition is David Rutledge, who will return for his third full season and will drive once again for Lynx Racing. Rutledge broke into the win column in 2000 taking the checkers at Montreal and ended up sixth in points. The trio of Basso, Moran Jr., and Rutledge should be the favorites among the veterans returning to the series. Lynx Racing provided a test for Aaron Justus at Buttonwillow Raceway in California after Justus captured the USF2000 crown. The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship provides the test each year to the USF2000 champion.
Hylton Motorsports team owner, Keith Hylton, will once again be touting Hoover Orsi to drive the #9 car. Orsi finished seventh in points this past season and to help Orsi compete for the championship, Hylton hired Kyle Brannan as Director Engineering.
"We have been actively pursuing Kyle for sometime and are extremely pleased he has joined our team. His winning record of the 1999 Championship, 2nd and 3rd place in 2000 along with Rocky of the Year for Dan Wheldon speak for themselves," mentioned Hylton. "I am confident Kyle will ensure we run in the front, and be close to race set up when we arrive at the track," said Orsi. Hylton is currently reviewing Car #10 driver options.
The returning drivers of the series will have their hands full when the green flag drops in Long Beach. A strong field of rookies is already taking shape. Along with Macri driving for P-1 Racing, the returning championship team, DSTP Motorsports has already filled it's seat in hopes of repeating. Joey Hand will take over the ride vacated by Buddy Rice for DSTP. Hand impressed team owner, Dede Rogers, in testing sessions enough to earn the ride. The 1999 Star Formula Mazda Champion will attempt to fill the big shoes Rice left behind.
Also quick in filling their open seat with a talented rookie was
1Grant Riley, another Star Formula Mazda standout will move up to an Atlantic ride for 2001. Riley competed for Chuck West and the Worldspeed Motorsports team in that series also.
P-1 Racing signed Jonathon Macri from Ontario, Canada to drive the NTN Bearings car for 2001. Macri comes to the Atlantic Championship as the Canadian Formula Ford 1600 Series Champion. Macri also competed in the Barber Dodge Pro Series this past season.
A new team entering the series will be Margraf Motorsports. PPI Motorsports shut down their two-car Atlantic operation at the conclusion of this past season. Margraf Motorsports bought the team and will fill their seats with two brothers, Zac Mazzotta and Hawk Mazzotta. The California natives competed in the Formula Continental series this past season.
Although Condor Motorsports have not officially named their drivers for the upcoming season, team owner, Carlos Bobeda is preparing for the season by moving his team into a new 12,000 square foot facility located near the California Speedway. Condor Motorsports again plans to field a two-car team this season.
Hylton Motorsports has also been staying busy testing new drivers including Ianina Zanazzi, an Argentine eighteen year old female driver under the direction of her mentor, John Della Penna. Ianina finished second this past season in the South American F3 Championship winning two races.