Ryan-Hunter Reay dominated the runways at the Toyota Atlantic Championship series' stop at the Cleveland Grand Prix. He finished with a seven second advantage over Jon Fogarty, who was never close enough to mount a challenge after a lap 5 restart.
Ryan-Hunter Reay dominated the runways at the Toyota Atlantic Championship series' stop at the Cleveland Grand Prix. He finished with a seven second advantage over Jon Fogarty, who was never close enough to mount a challenge after a lap 5 restart. Hunter-Reay wouldn't admit to having an easy race, but said: "I knew yesterday in qualifying, it was one of the best car setups I've driven so far this year. I knew then that if we had that type of car for the race that we'd be pretty hard to catch, or at least be right up front for the lead. And that's the way it went."
Fogarty had a lonely race to finish second, never having anything for Hunter-Reay and never getting a strong challenge from behind. Fogarty admitted to being a spectator for part of the race: "I'm watching my mirrors a lot of time during the race, rooting for Luis (Diaz) to get by Michael (Valiante), and I'm really happy that he did."
It was an exciting battle to watch, as Valiante and Diaz had an entertaining scrap for the third position in the first half of the race. Diaz described it: "The first time that I passed Michael, I tried to brake harder in turn 1, and I passed him, but then he had a better exit than me. The next time I passed him, it was because he had problems with a slow guy, so he had a bad exit, and I just tried to go faster to turn 3 and I got the pass."
After Diaz won that contest and pulled away to worry his Dorricott Racing teammate for second place, Rocky Moran Jr. stepped up to challenge Valiante for fourth place, and eventually took the spot. With just a few laps remaining, Valiante's car appeared to come in and he re-passed Moran for fourth and chased off after Diaz, setting fast lap of the race in the process.
The Toyota Atlantic cars got a clean start through the Burke Lakefront Airport circuit's treacherous turn 1, without even a bent wing showing in the field. The polesitter, Hunter-Reay, got a good jump and led into one with Fogarty right behind. Valiante out-braked third-qualifier Waldemar Coronas from the row behind him to get third. On the run up to the fast turn 2, Diaz and Moran Jr. slipped past Coronas as well.
At the start of lap three, Alex Figge got into the back of Roger Yasukawa's Swift under braking for turn 1 and was flung into Sepp Koster's car. All the drivers were OK, but the yellow flag waved for Figge's and Koster's mangled cars to be towed away while Yasukawa visited his pit for a new rear wing.
When the green waved again, Hunter-Reay streaked off into the distance to a lead he never relinquished. Fogarty held off Diaz for second at the end, while Valiante kept fourth and Moran Jr. fifth. Coronas held on for sixth place after a long fight with Grant Ryley for the position. Ryley slipped on the final lap, allowing Jonathan Macri, Ryan Dalziel, and Alex Gurney to sneak through for positions seven, eight and nine.
The Toyota Atlantic points race tightened up with this race result, as Hunter-Reay has now passed Fogarty for second place in points by virtue of his bonus point for leading the most laps. They both made up ground on the points leader Valiante, and are now only eight and nine points behind. This puts added importance on the Atlantic series' most prestigious race at le Circuit Trois-Rivieres in Quebec in three weeks.