Second year competitor James Hinchcliffe was fastest by a full two tenths of a second to lead the opening practice of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda. The personable Canadian, driving for Gerald...
Second year competitor James Hinchcliffe was fastest by a full two tenths of a second to lead the opening practice of the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered By Mazda. The personable Canadian, driving for Gerald Forsythe's Indeck Racing, showed his 22 other competitors that his was the car to beat this weekend. Close behind Hinche, and a real threat for the pole, was Monterey, California's Jonathan Bomarito, who debuts with Mathiasen Motorsports this weekend. Jonathan was signed after posting the fastest testing time at Houston several weeks ago. And, that signing comes none too soon for team owner Ray Mathiasen.
Ray Mathiasen entered what is now the Atlantic Series as a sponsor for driver Justin Sofio, who was the C2 Champion in 2005. With the debut of the new Cosworth powered Atlantic Car in 2006 and continuing through the 2007 season, Ray hoped continue those winning ways. Unfortunately, the results were not there and Ray and Justin parted company after the '07 Road America finale. With the economics of racing firmly in his sights, Mathiasen enters his third regular season with a new driver, series veteran Bomarito, who had been signed with Sierra Sierra Enterprises for 2008, only to lose that ride when the double named team decided to sit out this year's dance. When one of Ray's associates was asked why Bomarito, the answer was concise: "Ray wants to win".
Of course, there are 23 drivers that want to win, or one would hope seek those results. That much is clear. There are many other things the series lacks, including a sanctioning body, and for this weekend, an actual starter. With Vicki O'Connor remaining at the helm, it is very likely these important details will be sorted out. For the weekend, there should be some terrific racing from this year's field, which includes two sons of racing legend Nigel Mansell, seven American drivers (Skerlong, Scuito, Cameron, Summerton, Muniz, Minium, along with Bomarito), along with an international contingent of road racers.
Rounding out the top 5 on Friday morning were '07 Portland winner Kevin Lacroix in third, rookie Dane Cameron, fourth, and rookie Markus Niemela in P5. Also worth watching in this afternoon's first qualifying session are returning racer Andreas Wirth, A1GP's race winner last week, Atlantic rookie Jonathan Summerton and Orange, CA's Alan Sciuto.