Cleveland: Saturday race one notes

STRONG START FOR ZWOLSMAN LEADS TO WIN IN FIRST OF TWO ATLANTIC CLEVELAND RACES CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 25, 2005) -- Turn 1 at the Grand Prix of Cleveland has been known to be cruel to some of the most talented of drivers over the years. Saturday,...


CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 25, 2005) -- Turn 1 at the Grand Prix of Cleveland has been known to be cruel to some of the most talented of drivers over the years. Saturday, the famed tight righthanded turn on the airport runway taught lessons to a few newcomers in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, but one rookie conquered the beast.

Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) had never raced on the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport road circuit prior to this weekend, but the surprising first-year driver has been anything but timid on the wide-open runway course all weekend and he was certainly in attack mode at Turn 1. Starting second in the first race of this weekend's doubleheader, Zwolsman waited as long as he could to break in the tight righthand turn and the maneuver allowed him to get in front of polesitter Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil).

While Zwolsman zoomed to the front, a couple of drivers paid the price in the first turn. Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) came in fast at the corner and ran into her Polestar Racing Group teammate Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design). The incident also gathered in Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) as his car lost its back wing. Both Legge and Selznick had to retire from the race as a result of the contact as Turn 1 claimed more victims on a hot and humid afternoon in Cleveland.

After Zwolsman claimed the lead and avoided the fracas in Turn 1, it was hardly smooth sailing from there. Kasemets, the series point leader, kept applying pressure to the 26-year-old native of the Netherlands. On the 10th lap of the race, Zwolsman had perhaps his biggest scare. He encountered a lapped car in front of him and had to venture off course to avoid the slower traffic, but was able to gather it in and steer his car back on track without losing his lead. Zwolsman also held off Kasemets on a tight restart and had several close calls with more lapped cars late in the race before winning by .748 of a second over the Estonian racer in the Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Cleveland (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, July 9 beginning at 2 p.m. ET)

The win was Zwolsman's second of his young Atlantic career and it enabled him to draw within three points of Kasemets in the series championship standings (138-135) after five rounds of competition. For Kasemets, the second-place finish represented his fourth consecutive race of finishing among the top two, after he earned his first series victories last weekend in a Portland doubleheader.

Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) started fourth but improved to third at the checkered flag for his third consecutive podium finish. The 20-year-old native of Waghausel, Germany engaged in a fierce on-track battle with Canadian racer Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) late in the 32-lap race. Bessette wound up hitting the wall in Turn 8 with seven laps remaining, in the midst of the battle, and he had to park his car in pit lane after the contact.

After making his full-time return to the series last weekend, Al Unser III (#10 Racing) produced his best series result of fourth place for the Brooks Associates Racing team. Unser has now improved his finishing position in all three of his Atlantic starts this season.

Accomplished sports car racer Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) posted his second top-five result of the year by finishing fifth for Dyson Racing, while Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/DeWalt Tools/Ramset Tools) enjoyed his top series result in a remarkable run that saw him come from a 16th-place starting position to finish sixth.

California native Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) came home seventh overall and was the winner of the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup race. He won the C2 class for the third time in his four series starts this season and he extended his points lead in the category with today's effort.

Rookie Rich Zober (#66 Zober Industries) earned his best series finish in eighth place and second in C2, while Dan Cobb claimed third in the C2 category and finished ninth overall. Longtime series veteran Bob Siska (#18 RJS Motorsports) completed the top-10 rundown for the opening race of the weekend.

The Atlantic machines complete the twinbill of racing on Sunday with Round 6 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship slated to take the green flag at 11 a.m. ET (32 laps or 50 minutes). Follow all of the action of Sunday's race live through the Timing link on the series' official web site Both of this weekend's events will be aired on tape-delay on SPEED Channel, beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 9.


* Kasemets earned a bonus point for turning the fastest lap of today's race. He posted a mark of 1:07.712 on his 31st turn around Burke Lakefront Airport.

* Daryl Leiske (#63 Speedway Motors) owned the fastest C2 race lap and he scored a bonus point in the C2 standings.

* Locally-based Polestar Racing Group had a tough day at its home track. Both drivers for the team headquartered down the road from Cleveland in Chardon, Ohio -- Legge and Bessette -- failed to finish a race for the first time this season.

Quotes from the top three finishers from today's race follow:

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (Condor Motorsports): "The start was the key to the win. I got to run on the outside and brake in the inside, so Tonis could not hold me back anymore. After that I focused on making no mistakes. I had a scary episode in the grass when I lapped a car but my car handled it pretty well. Midway through the race I picked up some understeer so we are going to make a few changes for tomorrow to fix that problem. It was a difficult race because I had to fight a lot with the car on the second part of the race. The track is bumpy and the corners are fast so it was quite hard on me. (On tomorrow's race) I am not going to change anything for the start since I have the inside tomorrow."

TONIS KASEMETS (Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis): "I was just being very cautious for the start because the clean line was actually on the outside so Charles passed me. I had a good car for the race and I am satisfied with my second place finish. It means championship points and money in the bank, and it keeps us going which is very important. (On his battle with Zwolsman) Charles did a fantastic job. He did not make any mistakes. It was just hard to stay right behind him because of the aerodynamics disturbance. It still early in the season and I wanted to play it smart and not try anything stupid on Charles. It is more important to take the second place points."

ANDREAS WIRTH (Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "I had a good start though the first corner was a bit tight. Some drivers thought they could overtake 3 or 4 cars at Turn 1. When Legge came next to me, I thought she was going to hit me, but fortunately she ran into her teammate. My car was great at the beginning then it went away a little bit, like in Portland so we have to fix that for tomorrow's race. The battle with Antoine was great and he had bad luck when he hit the wall. After that I just drove safe and brought the third place home. I am really glad to be on the podium again. And I want to thank everyone at Brooks Associates Racing for their great job."


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Tom Nastasi , Katherine Legge , Bob Siska , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Daniel Selznick , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Dan Cobb , Chris Dyson