Long Beach Race Report

1999 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Schedule (PDT): Saturday, April 17: Qualifying 12:00 p.m.- 12:30 p.m. RACE 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. 37 laps, 68.45 miles FRIDAY RECAP: 1997 Long Beach winner Alexandre Tagliani earned ...

1999 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Schedule (PDT):

Saturday, April 17: Qualifying 12:00 p.m.- 12:30 p.m.

RACE 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. 37 laps, 68.45 miles

FRIDAY RECAP: 1997 Long Beach winner Alexandre Tagliani earned the provisional pole for today's race in the first qualifying session late yesterday. Tagliani established a record for the new 1.824-mile Long Beach configuration at 1:12.190 (90.870 mph) in his Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift 008.a. Anthony Lazzaro (PPI-MCI WorldCom/Swift 008.a) and Kenny Wilden (Shank Racing Services-Trizec Hahn/Newcourt Swift 008.a) completed the top three. Last year's pole winner Buddy Rice is fifth on the provisional grid in his Lynx Racing Swift 008.a.

ERIC JENSEN AND THE LONG BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT teamed up this weekend to create a special event for under-privileged and at- risk youths in the Long Beach area. In cooperation with the Police Athletic League, Jensen Motorsport hosted 25 local kids on Friday, giving them an opportunity to meet Jensen and have a barbecue lunch with the team and their Long Beach Police Department chaperones.

"I'm fortunate in my life that I've had a lot of advantages," said Jensen. "I get to travel and race cars. If I can give kids who are less advantage a chance to open their eyes to the opportunities in life, and let them see the police as a positive influence and just normal people doing something great for our society, maybe these kids will be less apt to do the wrong thing."

This is the second time Jensen has hosted this type of program. The first was last year at the Molson Indy in Toronto and he intends to continue the program at several more events this year.

SATURDAY FINAL QUALIFYING SESSION NOTES: Kenny Wilden earned his first career KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship pole position as he turned in a 1:11.805 (91.447 mph) effort in his Shank Racing Services-Newcourt/Trizec Hahn Swift 008.a on his final lap of the shortened session. Wilden's effort demoted Alexandre Tagliani (Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift 008.a) just as Tagliani had demoted Anthony Lazzaro (PPI-MCI WorldCom Swift 008.a) only seconds earlier.

The 30-minutes session began on schedule at 12:00 noon and was interrupted by three red flag periods, the final bringing the session to a premature end at 12:28 p.m. The first stoppage occurred six minutes into the session when Nicolas Rondet hit the wall hard in Turn 1. Rondet, who was fastest in the session at the time, was uninjured. The session resumed at 12:10 p.m. with 20 minutes remaining. Two minutes later Joe Asturi contacted the tire barriers in Turn 1 and continued. Seconds later Alex Gurney also spun into the tires in Turn 1, bringing out the red flag for the second time. Gurney, who was fourth fastest in the session at the time, was uninjured and his Team KOOL Green/All-American Racers Swift 008.a received only light damage, but it required 10 minutes to complete the clean-up at the scene of the incident. The green flag was displayed again at 12:23 p.m. with seven minutes remaining and Tagliani, who had bettered his time from yesterday, on top. With three minutes remaining until the scheduled conclusion, Masaoki Nagashima contacted the wall in Turn 2, bringing out the red and checkered flags simultaneously, just as Wilden completed his pole-winning lap.

Driver Quotes after Qualifying Session Kenny Wilden, #50 Shank Racing Services-Trizec Hahn/Newcourt Swift 008.a (first career KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship pole) "Our first pole! This is a great way to start the year. I'm pumped. In no way does this mean it is going to be an easy race. It's going to be hard fought but we've got the car to keep up front, so we're real excited."

Alexandre Tagliani, #66 Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift 008.a (2nd) "Our engine is great now and we've found the solution to our lack of speed on the straightaways."

Alex Gurney, #27 Team KOOL Green/All-American Racers Swift 008.a (accident while 4th fastest in session) "They must have thrown the oil flag right before I got to Turn 1. That's what did it. I'm OK and the car is not in bad shape either. I went pretty soft into the tires. It's too bad really because the track was definitely quicker."

Nicolas Rondet, #14 World Speed Motorsports/Red Line Oil/Martini Sunglasses Swift 008.a (accident while fastest in session) "I was really worried about trying to get more track time today because yesterday I wasn't able to run more than two laps in a row because we had too many black flags. Yesterday people were running into the wall and today I am the one who did it. I was trying to go too fast right away and the tires were not up to temperature just yet. The track has changed a little bit since yesterday. I went a little too far into turn one and I realized I wasn't going to make it and I hit the wall."

Lee Bentham, #33 Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift 008.a (6th) "Towards the end of the session there was a lot of oil on the track at Turns 2, 3 and 4. My car is very good and we'll be more than competitive."

Sam Hornish Jr, #13 Shank Racing Services-Advanced Power Coatings/HBI Swift 008.a (13th) "I downshifted going through Turn 3 and broke a gear. The car was better than it as yesterday. It's a shame we weren't there when it counted."

David Rutledge, #78 Forsythe Racing Team-The Keg/Fleming Financial Swift 008.a (14th) "Again today there were a lot of caution flags and it was hard to get the momentum up. I think I can move up into the top five."

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RAPID RACE RECAP Alexandre Tagliani scored his fifth career KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship victory, and his second on the streets of Long Beach, in his Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift. Anthony Lazzaro finished second in his PPI-MCI WorldCom Swift with Tagliani's teammate and reigning series champion Lee Bentham completing the podium. Tagliani's average speed was slowed to 73.607 mph by four full course cautions. The 37-lap race with a one lap dash to the checker, with Tagliani crossing the finish line 2.894 seconds ahead of Lazzaro.

Pole-sitter Kenny Wilden dropped four positions on the opening lap but was still in contention until lap 20 when he ran into a tire dislodged from the Turn 5 barrier by Andrew Bordin. The contact damaged Wilden's front wing, forcing him to pit for repairs and dropping him to 18th at the finish.

Bordin, for his part, took the lead from Tagliani on the first restart of the day, only to give the front spot back four laps later when Tagliani outbraked him going into Turn 1. Bordin continued to challenge the leader until he swung wide and into the tire barrier at the exit of Turn 5 on lap 20. Alex Gurney ran strong in the opening laps of his Atlantic debut until he ran into the back of Gary Peterson under braking for Turn 1, bringing out the first full course caution on lap 8.

Nicolas Rondet mounted a strong charge late in the race, climbing to third until he nosed into the tire barriers in Turn 1 on lap 34, bringing out the final full course caution. TIME OF RACE: 55m00.743s WINNER'S AVERAGE SPEED: 73.607 mph MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.894 seconds FASTEST LAP: 1:11.669 by Nicolas Rondet on lap 29


PACE YELLOW Joe Asturi loses engine cover on backstraight START GREEN Clean rolling start, 29 cars take green. Wilden leads into Turn 1 but soon loses the lead, has wheel-to-wheel contact with Bordin at Turn 9 and drops to fourth

2 Rice outbrakes Wilden at Turn 1 to take 4th. Nose- to-tail contact between Gurney and Bentham at Turn 1. Contact between Asturi and John Brook at Turn 1. Brook continues, Asturi loses left front wheel in contact and slides into runoff area. 4 Nose-to-tail contact between Sam Hornish Jr and David Rutledge, both continue

5 Tagliani continues to lead. Bordin passes Lazzaro for 2nd under braking for Turn 9.

7 YELLOW David Cutler is into the tire barrier in Turn 6. Gurney noses hard into the back of Gary Peterson under braking for Turn 1. Peterson is into the wall in Turn 1. Gurney continues briefly and pulls off in the Turn 2/Turn 3 complex. David Rutledge has front wing damage.

10 YELLOW Rutledge black-flagged for damaged front wing. 11 GREEN Bordin jumps immediately past Tagliani into the lead on the restart. Besnard brushes the wall and continues. Mike Conte spins in Turn 1.

12 YELLOW Full course caution for Conte in Turn 1.

14 GREEN Clean restart, Bordin gets good jump on field.

16 NEW LEADER: Tagliani dives under Bordin braking for Turn 1, takes lead, rapidly establishes four car lead. Tom Wieringa noses into tire barriers at Turn 9, backs out and continues to pits.

17 Tagliani leads Bordin, Lazzaro, and Rice followed by tight battle between Wilden, Bentham and Rondet for 5th

18 Tagliani leads, followed by Bordin and Lazzaro. Rice and Wilden battle tightly for 4th, Bentham and Rondet contest 6th. Rondet brushes wall at Turn 2 and continues.

20 YELLOW Bordin hard into tire barrier at Turn 5, dislodging tires which spill into the middle of the track. Wilden runs into tire dislodged from barrier, damaging front wing.

21 Running order behind the safety car is: Tagliani, Lazzaro, Rice, Wilden, Bentham and Rondet. Wilden is black flagged for front wing damage.

22 Wilden pits for new nose & front wing assembly, rejoins in 18th.

25 GREEN Clean restart, Tagliani gets good jump on field. Nose-to-tail contact between Eric Jensen and Bob Siska in Turn 11. Jensen continues, Siska pulls into pit entry and stops. Rondet challenges Bentham and takes 4th at the end of the backstraight.

27 Bentham brushes the wall and continues. Wilden spins and continues at Turn 5.

28 Tagliani leads Lazzaro. Rondet challenges Rice then takes over third with a pass around the outside in between Turns 2 and 3.

29 Tagliani leads, followed by Lazzaro and Rondet. Rice and Bentham battle for 4th.

31 Bentham takes 4th from Rice. Great battle for 3rd between Bentham, Rice and Julian.

32 Tagliani continues to lead. Nose-to-tail contact between Rondet and Lazzaro as they battle for 2nd. Rondet passes Lazzaro briefly in Turn 5 then Lazzaro gets back by at the exit.

33 Wilden pits to change right front tire

34 YELLOW Rondet slides deep and straight into the tire barriers at Turn 1.

36 GREEN Clean restart with 1 lap to go. Tagliani gets enormous jump on restart as Lazzaro, Bentham, Rice and Julian have to negotiated past a lapped car.

37 CHECKER Tagliani's 5th Atlantic win, second at Long Beach. Romeo Kapudija wins C2 class.

POST-RACE QUOTES: Alexandre Tagliani, #66 Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift 008.a (fifth career KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship victory, second at Long Beach) "What a race for the Player's team and what a way to kick off the season! This is really a team victory, and I'm in it for 30%. The setup on the car was perfect. With a few more laps, we could have given Player's a one-two win because Lee did a great come back. After all the testing we did this past winter, it was high time the season started, and it started with a bang!"

Anthony Lazzaro, #25 PPI-MCI WorldCom Swift 008.a (2nd) "It's good to be up here in the first race of the season. I'm proud of the hard work the PPI/MCI World Com team did to get me here. The race was frustrating. I went to oversteer at about 12-15 laps into the race,so I had to monitor that and try to take care of that from the cockpit. Alex had a great car today, and I would have liked to have been able to duel with him for the win. I'm happy to have a good finish today, because we earned our first points toward the championship contention. I'm disappointed but it's a good finish for the team and a good way to start the season."

Lee Bentham, #33 Player's-Forsythe Racing/Indeck Swift 008.a (3rd) "My car was hard to hold from the start. After I brushed the wall with about ten laps to go, I just closed my eyes and kept on going. Our Player's team radioed that there was damage on the left rear tire, and if I wanted to come in. I answered that I'd go in only if the car fell apart!"

Sam Hornish Jr, #13 Shank Racing Services-Advanced Power Coating/HBI Swift 008.a (8th) "It was my first race here so I just tried to play it cool until the end. We got our finish and we got our top ten, and now we're just looking ahead to the ovals."

Masaoki Nagashima, #20 Shank Racing Services- Panasonic/Duskin Swift 008.a (10th) "I was able to finish 10th and get into the points after starting 16th, so I am pretty happy. I had some problems with first and second gear, and when I would shift down, it would stick,so I couldn't really push the car as hard as I did in qualifying."

David Rutledge, #78 Forsythe Racing/The Keg/Fleming Financial Swift 008a. (17th) "We got off to a good start but then we had contact with another car and had to pit for a new front wing. Unfortunately, with some of the mishaps our outcome isn't a true example of how well things have gone together so far with the team and car. I am looking forward to the next three races on the ovals."

Kenny Wilden, #50 Shank Racing Services-Trizec Hahn/Newcourt Swift 008.a (pole-sitter, 18th) "The start wasn't good. We had a mix-up on signals from the starter, and I just didn't get on it and got passed by a couple of guys. And then, we were fine in the handling department, but the motor just wasn't there for the rest of the race. We probably could have still finished a strong fifth or sixth, but we came around a corner and there were two tires on the track and I just launched off them. That broke the front wing, and it cut a tire, and that was pretty much the end of our day."

Nicolas Rondet, #14 World Speed Motorsports-Red Line/Martini Sun Swift 008.a (21st, accident while running 3rd) "I was catching up with Anthony Lazzaro and I bumped him with my wing. The car was thrown off balance after that, so I was very cautious for the next few laps. Then I turned too hard into Turn 1 and the car locked up. I tried to salvage the car and continued around the corner even though the car was locked up and I went straight into the tire wall. I am sorry for the whole team who worked so hard after qualifying this afternoon to give me a great car and I was just not up to the job today. I was quick, but not long enough. At the beginning of the race I made some good choices, the car was running great. I had some great passes over Buddy Rice and Anthony Lazzaro. I respect these guys, they are very good drivers. I am not proud that I put the car into the wall, but I was proud to be out there driving against these guys and doing well."


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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , David Rutledge , Anthony Lazzaro , David Cutler , Buddy Rice , Bob Siska , Eric Jensen , Gary Peterson , Andrew Bordin , Masaoki Nagashima , Imran Husain , Tom Wieringa , Sam Hornis , Lee Bentham