Lavin signs on with Walker Racing; becomes third CART Toyota Atlantic Championship graduate to step-up to Champ Car for 2003 season. INDIANAPOLIS (January 30, 2003) - Bolstering the position of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship's position as...
Lavin signs on with Walker Racing; becomes third CART Toyota Atlantic Championship graduate to step-up to Champ Car for 2003 season.
INDIANAPOLIS (January 30, 2003) - Bolstering the position of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship's position as the top rung of the Champ Car Ladder System, Walker Racing and owner Derrick Walker today announced that 2001-02 Toyota Atlantic competitor Rodolfo Lavin has signed-on to drive alongside British rookie Darren Manning in a two-car assault in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Lavin, 25, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, will pilot the #5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone for the full 2003 Champ Car season. He spent the past two seasons competing with Michael Shank Racing in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, scoring a career-best finish of second at The Milwaukee Mile en route to ninth place in the 2002 championship standings. In his Toyota Atlantic rookie season of 2001, Lavin scored a podium finish of third at Nazareth Speedway, and finished seventh in the season point standings.
Prior to entering Toyota Atlantic, Lavin competed in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship from 1996 through 2000, scoring top finishes of fifth at Chicago Motor Speedway and California Speedway in 2000.
"I'm very excited to be here and to be competing in Champ Car for the full season," said Lavin. "I'm very excited to be with Walker Racing and I'm very lucky to have the support of Corona. We're going to give it 100 percent effort and I'm thankful to be here. I did Indy Lights for five years and Atlantic for two, so we're very prepared to move up to Champ Car. I've been preparing for this challenge since '96 in Indy Lights and to make the step up. I was with Michael Shank Racing in Atlantic and it was a very good team. We were able to finish on the podium, which is really good."
Lavin becomes the third former Atlantic competitor to make the step to Champ Car this year, joining Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was announced last week as a driver for American Spirit Team Johansson, and Patrick Lemarie, who was announced yesterday as the driver for the newly-formed PK Racing team. Lemarie competed in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in 1993 and '94, earning a best finish of second at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca behind eventual Champ Car and Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve.
Walker Racing has four career victories and ten career pole positions in Champ Car competition, and earned series runner-up honors with driver Gil de Ferran in 1997. For his part, Walker believes that Lavin has been well-prepared to make the step to Champ Car competition through the Champ Car Ladder System.
"I think if you look at his career, it's a perfect scenario," Walker said. "He started in Skip Barber, went to Indy Lights, and then competed in Atlantic. He's certainly earned his stripes. It's important that he could make the step. A lot of us (Champ Car) team owners should be looking at getting new drivers from the Atlantic series as other drivers move out of the series. I think you'd be surprised if there weren't more moving up."
Lavin, Hunter-Reay, Lemarie, and the rest of the 2003 class of Champ Car drivers will make their first public appearance next week in St. Petersburg and Sebring, Fla. for Champ Car Spring Training. The 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season gets underway on the weekend of February 23 on the streets of St. Petersburg.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "Ladder System." The series boasts $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. It is also noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition. Drivers who have graduated from Atlantic are current Champ Car competitors Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Patrick Lemarie, and Rodolfo Lavin as well as former Champ Car champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve.