Dan Wheldon; taking the Villeneuve / Andretti route to the top

21-year old English driver Dan Wheldon sets out this weekend to emulate the successes of Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Andretti - by racing in the first two rounds of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship which are being held at ...

21-year old English driver Dan Wheldon sets out this weekend to emulate the successes of Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Andretti - by racing in the first two rounds of the 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship which are being held at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida (25th/26th March) in support of the first race in this year's CART FedEx Championship Series.

Villeneuve and Andretti are just two of the famous drivers who first made their names in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in North America.

Wheldon - the first English driver to contest the series in recent history - has been signed by Californian-based team PPI Motorsports to race a Jayhard Swift Toyota in all 12 rounds of the Championship, which are held throughout the USA and Canada.

PPI Motorsports won last year's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship with Anthony Lazzaro and are confident they have picked another winner in Wheldon. PPIM's Atlantic Program Manager, Nick Harvey, commented: 'Having watched his career with great interest, I am confident that Dan will make the transition into the Atlantic series without a hitch. We're looking forward to a highly competitive season . . .'

Last year - Dan Wheldon's first in America - he took the US Formula Ford 2000 series by storm, claiming six wins, eleven podium finishes and five pole positions en route to clinching the 1999 Championship title and the 'Road to Indy' Crown.

Comments Dan Wheldon: 'This is an excellent opportunity to move into what is known as one of the toughest championships in the US. Everyone on the PPI Motorsports team is very professional, and they have the hunger to do very, very well. We have the same goals, so I plan to work hard, stay focused, learn as much as I can and be as consistent as possible for a good finish in the Championship.

'The team and I are now ready to get underway and see how we compare with other teams against which we haven't tested. I am feeling very confident and would, obviously, like to set pole positions and win outright like I did on several occasions last year. However, I am also mindful of the importance of scoring points in both races this weekend.

'I certainly view the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship as being an ideal stepping-stone to reaching a drive in Champ Cars.'

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Anthony Lazzaro , Dan Wheldon