FACT SHEET THE CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP Round 1, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 6-7, 2001, Long Beach, Calif. Event: Round 1 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on 1.968-mile Long Beach street ...
FACT SHEET THE CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
April 6-7, 2001, Long Beach, Calif.
Round 1 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, will be held on 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit, as the Saturday feature race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Saturday’s race will mark the 19th time since 1978, the Atlantic series has competed on the streets at this venue.
The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART’s “Ladder System”, and is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART Champ car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.
<pre> Atlantic schedule at Long Beach: Friday, April 6: Practice 8:00 a.m. – 8:25 a.m. Qualifying 3:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Saturday, April 7: Qualifying 8:00 a.m. – 8:40 a.m. RACE 3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. (32 laps/62.98 miles)
If experience is the key to who is favored, look no further than David Rutledge Preview (Lynx Racing Swift), who will be starting his fourth full season in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Other than the series veteran driver, Bob Siska (RJS Motorsports Swift), no current Atlantic driver has ran more laps in an Atlantic car on this circuit than Rutledge. David’s first tour at Long Beach, in 1998, resulted in a 20th place DNF; but came back the following season to finish the race in 17th. Rutledge joined the Lynx Racing team in 2000; and this time, he broke through at Long Beach matching his career best Atlantic finish with a runner-up showing behind the 2000 season champion, Buddy Rice. That second place showing makes Rutledge the highest finisher from the 2000 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to return this season.
Rutledge will have to look out for second year driver, Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/BBB Valve Swift) from Argentina. Basso is the highest championship, point finisher returning from the 2000 Atlantic campaign. Basso found some success in his Long Beach rookie debut last year. After running in the top-5 during the middle of the race, Basso’s day ended just five laps shy of the finish with a mechanical problem.
Three other series veterans will also have a say on who will win this race. Brazil’s Hoover Orsi, (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) returns to Long Beach with a 5th place finish from last year’s event. Orsi will start his second season with a strengthened Hylton Motorsports team that helped him finish 7th in championship points in 2000. Also making a return trip to this race after a strong debut is T.J. Bell (Cobb Racing Swift) from Sparks, Nevada. Bell finished 6th behind Orsi last year, while driving for Michael Shank Racing. Bell narrowly missed finishing in the top-10 in championship points with an 11th place spot. Finally, CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star, Rocky Moran Jr. (Condor Motorsports Swift), from Cota de Caza, California comes back to Long Beach after a fifth place finish in the 2000 Atlantic Championship. Returning as the only driver to complete every lap turned during the 2000 season, Moran finished 10th at Long Beach last year driving for P-1 Racing.
Mexico’s Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift) may be new to CART Toyota Atlantic Championship; but the Long Beach street circuit is not. Rodolfo spent five seasons racing in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship, which also competes in the streets here; so, he is no stranger on how to get around this track. For the first time in his career, Tony Ave (P-1 Racing Swift), is set to run all twelve races that make up the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Atlantic’s most versatile driver this season, Ave has raced about everything that has wheels on it, and even some that didn’t. From the SCCA Trans-Am Championship, racing Formula 1 Snow Mobiles, to USAC Midget and Sprint Cars will make Ave one of the drivers to keep an eye out for. You can also add Atlantic race winner to the list with a win in Miami in 1996.
The biggest challenge of any group of drivers will be the 2001 rookie crop. The majority of these drivers have never raced at Long Beach, and the key to their success will be how quickly they learn the circuit. The pressure to succeed will be greatest for the driver who will pilot the car that went to victory at Long Beach in 2000. Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports Swift) will take the challenge to fill the shoes of Buddy Rice. Not only is the car the defending race champion; but the series champion, as well. In the same boat will be a pair of brothers, Hawk Mazzotta (Margraf Racing/KMS Haircare Swift), and Zac Mazzotta (Margraf Racing/KMS Haircare Swift). Margraf Racing Inc. bought the Atlantic operations from PPI Motorsports at the conclusion of the 2000 season. This places Hawk and Zac in the cars that Daniel Wheldon and Andrew Bordin drove with much success, last year. Like Hand, the Mazzotta brothers will see the Long Beach circuit for the first time this weekend.
Completing the rookie class will be a field of talented drivers, all with a shot to win depending on how quickly they can learn the twisty street course. Canada’s Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift), has been fast in pre-season testing, along with Grant Ryley (World Speed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift), from San Jose, California, and Canada’s Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift). The trio had an impressive testing session during the series test, at Firebird International Raceway. Frank Dancs (Condor Motorsports Swift) from San Carlos, California, rounds out first year drivers.
Atlantic history at Long Beach:
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Long Beach 18 times, dating back to the 1978 season. The previous Atlantic winners at were: Howdy Long Beach Holmes (1978), Tom Gloy (1979, 1980),Geoff Brabham (1981, 1982), Hiro Matsushita (1989), Jimmy Vasser (1991), Mark Dismore (1992), Claude Bourbonnais (1993), Richie Hearn (1994), David Empringham (1995), Case Montgomery (1996), Alex Tagliani (1997, 1999), Memo Gidley (1998), and Buddy Rice (2000).
Buddy Rice and Daniel Wheldon had split the first two races of the season heading into Round 3 at Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. While Wheldon scored the bonus point for taking the pole, it was Rice that showed the early muscle when he passed Wheldon and his teammate, Andrew Bordin, in Turn 1 of the first lap. Wheldon later regained the lead from Rice after a restart on Lap 5. Wheldon continued to lead until the car developed a gear problem during the middle stages of the race. Rice recovered the lead on Lap 15 and never looked back.
Bordin and David Rutledge were also able to overtake Wheldon; but Rice had already built up a 7.796-second lead. Unless the yellow flag came out, Bordin and Rutledge would have to settle for racing for second place. The yellow flag never flew, and on the next to last lap, Rutledge was able to pass Bordin for second place in Turn 4; but it was too late to catch Rice as he went on to win the race by 17.774 seconds. Wheldon managed not to lose too much ground to Rice, in the Championship, by holding onto fourth place, despite the mechanical problems he suffered. Hoover Orsi finished right on Wheldon’s tail to round out the top-5.
The average speed of the race was 82.619 mph and the race suffered only one yellow flag period lasting four laps (Lap 1-4). 11 cars finished on the lead lap, and 20 cars were running at the conclusion of the event.
ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Saturday’s Round 1 race from Long Beach on Sunday, April 15, at 2:00 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on a date to be determined later. ESPN2 will replay the race on Wednesday, April 18, at 1:00 p.m ET.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with Round 2 on Sunday, May 6, at the Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
- Brian Tate