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Fact Sheet The Cart Toyota Atlantic Championship Round 5, Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar June 29-July 1, 2001, Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland, Ohio Event: Round 5 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship...

Fact Sheet
The Cart Toyota Atlantic Championship

Round 5, Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar
June 29-July 1, 2001, Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland, Ohio

Event: Round 5 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 2.106-mile temporary road course, as Sunday's opening event at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar. Sunday's race will mark the fourth time since 1997 the Atlantic series has competed at the Burke Lakefront Airport. The Atlantic Championship did not run in Cleveland in 1999

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. <pre> Atlantic Schedule at Cleveland

Friday, June 29: Practice 1:45 p.m. - 2:25 p.m. Qualifying 5:45 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

Saturday, June 39: Practice 9:00 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. Qualifying 1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 1: Warm-Up 8:15 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. RACE 10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. (32 laps/67.392 miles)

Race Preview:

The first four rounds of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship have taken place on a variety of race circuits. From the streets of Long Beach, the ovals of Nazareth and Milwaukee, to the permanent road course at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, each track tested all the disciplines of auto racing. Now, going into the race at Cleveland, the drivers will be faced with a unique challenge that has not been seen so far this season.

For 362 days out of the year, the Burke Lakefront is home to a regional airport, set on the edge of Lake Erie. But for three days, it is transformed into one of the most unique race circuits in all of motorsports. Drivers have a love/hate relationship with the 2.106-mile temporary road course. Because the track is run on the flat airport runways and taxiways, there is a lack of reference points for braking as drivers enter into corners. Getting around the Cleveland circuit quickly is due more to feel and experience. But unlike other temporary street circuits where mistakes are punished with walls and tire barriers, the track in Cleveland is wide open; but that does not necessarily change how a driver approaches the track.

Drivers who have raced at Cleveland in the past should have a clear advantage over others that are just seeing the course for the first time. CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points leader, David Rutledge sums up what first time drivers in Cleveland will need to learn quickly. "Cleveland is an interesting track in many ways. It's so wide and fast that you'd think there are few reference points for a driver to use, and that may be true the first time you drive it. But after some time on course your vision expands and instead of looking for small things to use as turn-in or braking points, you use the relative positions of larger objects, buildings in distance, advertising signs on walls and such. And the very bumpiness of the track becomes a reference point, you hit a certain sequence of bumps and you know which corner is coming up." Rutledge continues, "People think that the lack of walls makes this track somehow easier for a driver to go fast because he knows that there's nothing to hit if you go off. But even on a street circuit completely lined with walls, you get into a state of mind where they don't really exist as a part of your thinking, until you're leading on the last couple of laps anyway."

David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) regained the points lead in Montreal. Having survived the two oval races at Nazareth and Milwaukee, Rutledge dominated the road course at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The win in Montreal made it two consecutive road course wins for Rutledge, who also won the season opening race at Long Beach. Rutledge won both races from the pole. With eight races remaining on the schedule and only one of them being on an oval, Rutledge has cast himself as the "Man to Beat" for the remainder of the season.

"We're coming into Cleveland with a lot of momentum and confidence in our ability to field a top-finishing car on road courses," said the Vancouver, Canada native. "My engineer Rick Cameron and I are working very well together, and when you have as little on-track time as we do on a race weekend, the ability to put together a good setup quickly is very important."

Rutledge gained the lead from Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) who before Montreal, had not finished worse than second, including his first career win at Milwaukee. Orsi entered the Montreal race with a 10 point lead over Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) with Rutledge one point behind Ave. A broken gearbox early in the Montreal race ended Orsi's day and reign atop of the Championship standings. Now both Orsi and Ave face an uphill climb trying to catch Rutledge who has no sign of weaknesses on road courses. Rutledge leads the Championship with 64 points with Orsi and Ave tied nine points behind, at 53 points.

Even though the Hylton Motorsports team lost the lead in Montreal, Orsi feels they have plenty left to show. "I finished third in Cleveland last year, so everybody on my team really wants to win here and get back to first place in the points," said the confident Brazilian driver. "We are gonna try as hard as possible."

All three of the leading drivers have raced at Cleveland before with Rutledge running here twice. Rutledge however, has not had the success that Orsi and Ave have had. Rutledge retired from the race last year after a mid-race contact incident in turn one, and finished 14th in 1998, his rookie season. Orsi however collected a podium here last year finishing third. Ave finished 5th in 1997 setting the fastest race lap.

Entering the 2001 campaign, Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) was one of the favorites to contend for the Championship, but a bad start to the season put Basso in catch-up mode before the season even reached the halfway point. Basso regained form with a third place finish in Montreal and should have confidence heading into the race at Cleveland. Basso finished second here last year behind 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, Buddy Rice, driving for DSTP Motorsports. Basso has climbed up to fourth in the Championship but still has a long way to go trailing Rutledge by 32 points.

"This is another city and track that I really enjoy," said an upbeat Martin Basso. "The track is bumpy, but it's wide and fast, so you can move up in a lot of different sections, including the very fast corners; it's a great place for driving and racing. And we are going to Cleveland following a third place at Montreal, so hopefully we will be able to have another good result and continue to move up in the points."

Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) took over the champion's seat for the 2001 season and although the rookie driver has shown flashes of Championship form, the results have been less than expected for a team looking to repeat a championship. This is a "home track" race for the Chardon, Ohio based team and a win here could bolster the DSTP gang back into the Championship hunt. After starting the season with a third place finish at Long Beach, Hand's best finish since then has been 12th at Milwaukee. The drought has put Hand 10th in the Championship with 19 points.

Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing/Italian Motors Swift) leads the Rookie of the Year standings after running only two of this year's four races. A solid finish at Long Beach along with a runner-up finish behind his teammate, Rutledge, at Montreal put him on top of the rookie class with 28 points. Valiante is only running a partial season with the Lynx team and won't be competing in Cleveland which puts Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift) as the leading "full time" rookie. Macri has 27 points, one point behind Valiante and 7th overall in the Championship. Like other Atlantic rookies, Macri will be visiting the Cleveland layout for the first time.

Second year driver, Stephan C. Roy (P-1 Racing/Playstation 2 Swift) is coming off his best career Atlantic finish of fourth at Montreal. The fourth position there along with his fifth place showing at Nazareth has allowed Roy to move into a tie with Valiante for fifth place in the Championship. Roy started last year's Cleveland race in 18th but moved up to a 10th place finish.

Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift) has rebounded from a sluggish start to the season and climbed back into the Championship hunt. Ryley only stands four points behind Valiante in the Rookie standings with 24 points. Ryley, who is competing in the Atlantic Championship for the first time, has shown a knack for learning new tracks quickly. He qualified fifth at Long Beach, was fastest in practice at Nazareth, and won the pole in Milwaukee.

Heading into the Round 3 race at Milwaukee, Mexico's, Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift) led the Rookie of the Year standings and was within reach of the overall championship hunt. But a contact incident in Milwaukee while battling for third place with Tony Ave and a broken gearbox in the following race at Montreal, have left Lavin stuck at the 20 points he entered Milwaukee with. Although he is far from being out of the Rookie chase, the Championship may be too far away.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will continue on its road course swing before running the final oval of the season in Chicago in late July. Round 6 will have the Atlantic series returning to Canada in mid July for the Molson Indy in Toronto, Ontario.

Atlantic History at Cleveland

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport three times dating back to the 1997 season.

The previous Atlantic winners at Cleveland were; Alexandre Tagliani (1997), Memo Gidley (1998), and Buddy Rice (2000).

Television Broadcasts:

ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Sunday's Round 5 race from Cleveland on Saturday, July 7, at 4:30 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Tuesday, July 10, at 7:00 p.m. in all four time zones. CTV repeat dates are: EAST, Wednesday, July 11, 2:30 p.m., ONTARIO, Wednesday, July 11, 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 17, 2:30 p.m., Friday, July 20, 2:00 p.m., PACIFIC, Saturday, July 14, 11:00 p.m., and WEST, Wednesday July 11, 4:00 p.m. ESPN2 will replay the race on Friday, July 13, at 4:00 a.m. ET.

Race Video Highlights:

CART Toyota Atlantic highlights from the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar, Sunday, July 02, 2001 will be included in the following VNR (Video News Release) at a time to be announced later. The date and time will be included in a separate release or included with the post race release.

Next Race: The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with Round 6 on Saturday, July 14, at the Molson Indy Toronto in Toronto, Ontario.

-CART/ATL-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Richie Hearn , Martin Basso , Tony Ave , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Danny Sullivan , Gilles Villeneuve , Buddy Rice , Rodolfo Lavin , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing