TAGLIANI CAPTURES ATLANTIC VICTORY AT LONG BEACH AFTER HOLDING OFF LAZZARO IN CAUTION-FILLED RACE LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 12) -- Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., held off a fierce challenge from Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga. over...
TAGLIANI CAPTURES ATLANTIC VICTORY AT LONG BEACH AFTER HOLDING OFF LAZZARO IN CAUTION-FILLED RACE
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 12) -- Alexandre Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., held off a fierce challenge from Anthony Lazzaro, of Acworth, Ga. over the final three laps of Saturday's 30-lap KOOL/ TOYOTA Atlantic Championship race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The duo battled after a late race caution while third place finisher Bill Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif., followed closely behind.
"At the beginning of the race he (Lazzaro) passed me on the back straight away on the outside and I took him back on the inside on the front straight away," said Tagliani. "During the red flag stop, the team did not come to the car in order for me to better keep my focus. This evidently worked."
Tagliani took the lead in his Player's/Indeck Ralt RT-41 from Lazzaro on lap seven of the race that was slowed four times for incidents. Polesitter Case Montgomery, of Salinas, Calif., set the pace at the drop of the green flag in his Microsoft/Wall Data Ralt RT-41, and held the point after a caution slowed the field to remove the car of Michael David who broke an axle.
Lazzaro's Platinum Sound/BG Products Ralt RT-41 challenged Montgomery for the lead on the lap six restart and passed him through turn two. Tagliani also slipped by Montgomery, who was tagged by Alex Barron and spun on the same lap.
"Anthony got a really good jump on the restart," said Montgomery. "He got on the power and got a wheel on me and I thought, 'Well, he got a great jump, I'll just stay right here.' Then going into turn one two cars got by me and as I turned in, I got hit by Barron. From that point on the car was terrible under braking."
Bertrand Godin, of St. Hyacinthe, Que., spun his Player's/Indeck Ralt RT-41 after making light contact with the corner of the turn eight apex while exiting the hairpin on lap 11. He tried to continue, but was unable to get his car headed in the right direction and was hit by Cam Binder. Jeret Schroeder then rear-ended Binder's car. The race was red flagged to clear the track.
Tagliani was able to maintain his lead on the lap-12 restart, but the yellow flew quickly again when Marcelo Gaffoglio and Bob Siska made contact in turn one on the restart. Both drivers were uninjured but were forced to retire from the race.
On the restart Tagliani was followed by Lazzaro, Tony Ave, Joao Barbosa and Auberlen, who had moved up from his eleventh starting position. Ave later retired with overheating problems.
Robert Sollenskog spun into the tire barrier in turn seven on lap 24, bringing out the fourth and final yellow flag. This also set up the final dash to the checkered flag in a race that was rapidly approaching its scheduled one-hour running time.
When the green flag flew on lap 28, Tagliani held off the top four cars which also included Lazzaro, Auberlen and Portuguese rookie Joao Barbosa as they went four cars wide into turn one. Meanwhile, Memo Gidley and Montgomery were engaged in a fierce battle for fifth.
Tagliani held off Lazzaro, and Auberlen prevailed over Barbosa after the final three-lap sprint to the checkered flag. The French Canadian driver won by 1.4529-seconds and took home $20,000 of the $85,000 posted purse.
Auberlen was awarded a $1,000 bonus for winning the "KOOL Move of the Race" and $1,000 for winning the "Yokohama Now You've Got Control award. Barbosa earned the $1,000 KOOL Rookie Challenge award. Lazzaro holds a seven point advantage over Tagliani, 36-29. Gidley drops to third with 25 points, followed by Barbosa and Auberlen with 24 and 23 points, respectively.
The Long Beach KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship race will be aired on ESPN2, Saturday, April 19, at 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EDT.
# # #