CLEVELAND (July 1, 2001) - The thunder and lightening show at the start of the race was just a preview of things to come in Round 5 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. On a rainy Sunday...
CLEVELAND (July 1, 2001) - The thunder and lightening show at the start of the race was just a preview of things to come in Round 5 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. On a rainy Sunday morning, Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) held off a furious challenge by rookie, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) to take his second win of the season, and the championship points lead.
Pole winner, Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) led the early laps on a dry track, but on lap six, a thunderstorm moved across the area dumping rain on the track and Basso's hopes for a win. "I'm pretty disappointed because I thought we were going to be on podium today," said the Brazilian driver. "We had a really good car on the dry track, but after the rain, I don't think we made the right changes and the car was loose everywhere." Basso went on to finish the race in seventh place, but did take home his second career $1,000 "Toyota Pole Award" during Saturday's qualifying.
The race went yellow on the first lap when Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift) sustained left rear wheel damage in a contact incident with Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) in Burke Lakefront Airport's tricky turn 1. Ryley was eliminated from the race while Ave lost three laps making repairs. After a battle through the early laps, Basso lost the lead to Hand before the rains came.
The 32-lap event went to its second yellow flag of the race due to the moisture and finally was red flagged two laps later to allow the teams to change over to rain tires. Hand restarted the race in first place on lap 13 but spun at the exit of turn 10 as the green flag flew out. Hand was able to get the car pointed in the right direction quickly, but dropped to sixth place. By the conclusion of the following lap, Hand had recovered back up to second place setting up the duel with Orsi.
On a wet track, Orsi and Hand dueled trying to find the best line around the damp 2.106 mile temporary street circuit. With three laps to go, Hand looked to have lost his chance to pass Orsi after the pair made their way through lapped cars. Orsi stretched his lead out to 1.038 seconds with two laps to go but Hand closed the margin to .296 seconds taking the white flag. Hand pulled right up to Orsi's rear wing in Turn 1 and made his move for the lead in Turn 3. Hand completed the pass exiting Turn 4, but Orsi fought back and grabbed the lead back between turns 7 and 8. Orsi held off Hand heading for the finish line by a margin of .243 seconds.
"It was an awesome race, and it was one of the most difficult ones," said Brazil's Hoover Orsi. "The conditions were really tough with slick tires at the beginning. Fortunately, I had a good car all the way through. The last lap was just amazing. I had a really nice race with Joey running side by side like that. Joey was clean with me and I was clean with him. Joey did a good job. I am really happy to finish first and I have to thank my team for giving me a great car all weekend. I'm glad to be on top again in the points."
Hand, who drives for the Chardon, Ohio based DSTP Motorsports, was excited about the finish as well. "It was all about the show," said an excited Hand. "If you don't win, then you had better put on a good race. We definitely had a great racecar, both in the wet and the dry. On the restart, I stood on it and knew right away that I was going around. After that, I was on a mission to get back into the lead. I was searching all over for a faster rain line, and once I found it I was able to reel Hoover in. We had a great race, especially the last lap. We both raced clean and never touched. We probably should have crashed because we were both off the track and in the grass. I think this was the best race I have run since karts. I didn't think you could race this close in real cars. We didn't win today, but we know our first one is just around the corner. Hopefully in Toronto."
Hand collected his first ever $1,000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" Award with a time of 1:11.066 seconds (106.684 mph) on the slick track in Cleveland.
T.J. Bell (Cobb Racing Swift), who has a fondness for driving on wet tracks, turned in his best career finish of third. It was fun," said Bell. "The racing was good. We could have made it better but that's what happens when you're dry and then it goes to rain. I don't know what else to say ^Ö it's my first podium. I got confidence and I think we'll be at the top of the sheets from here on out."
Also turning in his best career Atlantic finish was rookie, Charles Hall (Duesenberg Brothers Racing/Western Union First Data Swift), placing fourth. Round out the top-5 was CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star, Rocky Moran (Condor Motorsports/Ariba Swift) who turned in his best finish of the season.
With the win, Orsi regains the Atlantic Championship points lead with a total of 74 points, 2 points ahead of the leader coming into this weekend's race, David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) who finished sixth. The pair was able to distance themselves from Tony Ave who stayed at 53 points after his first lap mishap. Basso remained in fourth at 39 points with Hand jumping from 10th to 5th at 35 points.
Round 6 of the 12 event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held in two weeks as part of the Molson Indy Toronto at the Canadian National Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario Canada.
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.