Dan Wheldon, the 21-year old English racing driver who won the US F2000 Championship last year in his 'rookie' season, is dominating the pre-season testing for the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in North America which he is contesting...
Dan Wheldon, the 21-year old English racing driver who won the US F2000 Championship last year in his 'rookie' season, is dominating the pre-season testing for the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in North America which he is contesting with PPI Motorsports (PPIM). PPIM won the 1999 Atlantic Championship and is sister team to the FedEx Champ Car team which is entering Reynard-Toyotas for Cristiano da Matta and Oriol Servia this year.
Wheldon has a long pedigree of success in karts and single-seaters in Europe - having often raced against (and beaten!) new BMW WilliamsF1 signing Jenson Button - but has chosen the North American CART ladder to the top in motor racing.
Having signed for PPIM in January, Dan Wheldon was immediately on the pace as he graduated to the more powerful Toyota Atlantic category. In his first test session - at Homestead in Florida on 15th January (venue for the first race on 25th March) - Dan was second fastest, only a couple of tenths of a second behind his team-mate, Andrew Bordin, who is now entering his third year in the category.
The next morning, with a revised set-up and new tyres, Wheldon set a time of 40.3 seconds which was the quickest of the session and, although only going a few hundredths of a second quicker in the afternoon, he remained quickest overall among the ten runners.
On 1st, 2nd and 3rd February the PPI Motorsports Toyota Atlantic team tested at Sebring in Florida for the very first time and, again, Wheldon dominated the timesheets.
Over the three days, Dan Wheldon was consistently quickest - despite other top teams, such as Lynx, Mike Shank Racing and Active being present. No other driver got within three tenths of a second of Dan's times. His best time was 59.55 seconds - almost a second under the quickest-ever Atlantic time, 60.40s, which was set by Buddy Rice last year.
The third day saw bad weather, giving Dan Wheldon his first experience of driving a Toyota Atlantic in wet conditions.
After the Sebring test, Dan Wheldon commented: 'Overall it was a very beneficial three days because I was able to have more track time in the dry and some running in the wet also. I feel I have gelled very well with the whole team, and especially my engineer Nick Harvey, so we are looking forward to a very successful season.'
Wheldon's next testing will be at Phoenix, Arizona on 28th February where he will drive his Toyota Atlantic Swift on an oval for the first time.