Long Beach: Round one preview



INDIANAPOLIS (April 6, 2005) - The next generation of up-and-coming open-wheel racing stars will be unveiled this week as the 32nd season of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama hits the streets to kick off its 2005 schedule at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Atlantic grid will feature an infusion of new, talented young racers competing in North America's top open-wheel development series this season alongside several series veterans and an expanded class of aggressive C2 category competitors. The new crop of talent will be on display this weekend as the 240 HP Atlantic machines attack the fabled 1.968-mile circuit on the streets of Long Beach in the first of 12 rounds in this season's championship.

This Sunday's 32-lap race (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. ET) marks the 22nd Toyota Atlantic event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and it offers the first glimpse of what should be a very competitive championship pursuit in 2005.

While no Atlantic series champions will be in the field Sunday, there will be a titleholder anxious to see the first green flag of the season. Germany's Andreas Wirth (#8 KBE/Profine/FensterWurges Windows & Doors) joins the Toyota Atlantic series with Brooks Associates Racing in '05 and he'll make his first start at Long Beach this weekend. The 20-year-old Wirth was a model of consistency last season winning the inaugural Formula BMW USA championship with 11 podium finishes in 14 races as a rookie. He hopes to tap into that first-year magic again this season for the Brooks squad.

Wirth's rookie teammate on the BAR team, Brazilian Fernando Rees (#10 Bahia/Natal/Santa Catarina), could also make some waves in his first series and Long Beach start. A 20-year-old native of Sao Paulo, Rees brings his European road racing skills to the Atlantic series this year and he's proven to be very quick in pre-season testing. He posted the two fastest unofficial laps last week during a test of top series competitors at Arizona's Firebird Raceway.

While the Brooks team will be strong this season, the third-year Polestar Racing Group squad also brings a tough duo to Long Beach to start the year. After gaining a reputation as one of the top female racers in Europe, Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) begins her first full season racing in the United States this weekend. The 24-year-old Northampton native has only tested for a few days with Polestar but she's proven to be a quick learner and she's eager to develop and refine her skills in the Atlantic series.

Canadian driver Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) also enters the year as one of the top contenders in a promising field of first-year Atlantic drivers. Bessette, a quiet but determined 23-year-old who hails from St. Bruno, Quebec, joins Legge on the Polestar team this season and after finishing third in the North American Formula Renault series in '04, he looks ready to compete for the Atlantic crown.

After a rookie season that saw him earn two top-five finishes in only six starts, Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK/TMI/Redline Oil) returns with a full-season entry in 2005 as he joins Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis. A pair of off-season Champ Car tests helped to further polish the technique of the Estonian-born driver. Kasemets is one of only six drivers in the current field who has started an Atlantic race on the tough Long Beach course but he hopes his race day turns out better this season after retiring early last year due to contact.

Established sports car racer Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) returns to the Atlantic series this year after making his debut with a pair of starts in '04. The 2003 LMP675 champion in the American Le Mans Series will make his first Atlantic street course start Sunday for Thetford/Norcold Dyson Racing.

McAtee Motorsports joins the Toyota Atlantic Championship as a new team in '05 and the two-car squad will make its debut this weekend. Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com/Pauline's Antiques/Toyota of Huntington Beach/T. Christy) is a skilled, young road racer who could emerge as one of the top series rookies this season and he'll pair with Brian McAtee (#19 Superior Warranty/Fleet Auto Sales), who will also make his first Long Beach start on Sunday.

Veteran driver Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) finished 15th in his Long Beach Atlantic debut last year. He hopes to improve on that finish as he enters his sophomore season in the series. Newcomer Ben Johnston (#96 Win Fuel/TrimSpa/Media Brokers International) begins his Toyota Atlantic career this week as he prepares to take the green flag for Blackforest Motorsports Group at Long Beach.

Seasoned Atlantic team Condor Motorsports returns to the series in 2005 and the squad will have experienced European racer Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) behind the wheel on Sunday for the season opener.

Series officials have expanded the C2 category this season to give competitors with existing Atlantic equipment an affordable opportunity to race in Champ Car's top development series. The 2005 C2 lineup should be very competitive and a total of eight entries will make a strong class debut at Long Beach.

Owner/driver Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction) will field a full-season C2 entry and he'll look to come out of the gates quickly this weekend. Two-time Toyota Atlantic race winner Rocky Moran Jr. (#5 P-1 Racing) returns to the track in a C2 entry with longtime series competitor P-1 Racing.

Last season's C2 championship team, Binder Racing, is back to defend its title. Local driver Justin Sofio (#15 Bare Elegance/Valley Ball) of Arleta, California was the top C2 finisher at Long Beach in '04 and he hopes to repeat the feat at his hometown race Sunday. Another former C2 champ, veteran Bob Siska (#18 RJS Motorsports), will also compete this weekend. With five previous Long Beach starts under his belt, the 1999 Atlantic C2 champ is the most experienced driver in the field.

Mark Ishikakawa (#71 Bay TSP) of Ishikawa Racing will compete in the majority of Atlantic races this season and the Los Gatos, California native will make his series debut at Long Beach. After making his first series start last season at Long Beach, Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools) returns to compete in C2 as he joins Blackforest Motorsports.

Experienced SCCA racer Lee Atkins (#48 Advanced Medical, Inc.) will lead Atkins Racing into its first taste of Toyota Atlantic competition with a C2 start this weekend and the US RaceTronics team will also make its series debut racing with Roby Feazell (#32 US RaceTronics).

This weekend's racing on the streets of Long Beach will feature Toyota Atlantic machines that are all Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

The event schedule calls for the Toyota engines to roar to life for the first time on Friday morning with practice from 9:30-10 a.m. PT. First-round qualifying is set for 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Atlantics will run a 30-minute practice from 9-9:30 a.m., followed by the final round of qualifying from 1:15-1:45 p.m. On race day, warm-up is scheduled for 8-8:15 a.m. Sunday morning and Round 1 of the 2005 championship - the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Toyota Atlantic race - will take the green flag at 10:30 a.m. PT. The race is scheduled for 32 laps (62.976 miles) or 50 minutes.

SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Long Beach Atlantic race at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 16. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in 77 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, and to follow all on-track sessions as they happen though the live timing and scoring link, visit the series' official web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com.



WHAT: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

WHERE:  Streets of Long Beach

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, April 8-10


FRIDAY, APRIL 8 - 9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m., Practice; 1:15 - 1:45 p.m., First-Round Qualifying.

SATURDAY, APRIL 9 - 9:00 - 9:30 a.m., Practice; 1:15 - 1:45 p.m., Final Qualifying.

SUNDAY, SUNDAY APRIL 10 - 8:00 - 8:15 a.m., Warm-up; 10:30 - 11:30 a.m., Atlantic Race.

U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, APRIL 16 - SPEED Channel, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Toyota Atlantic Race, 2 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay).

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.968-mile temporary street circuit
RACE LENGTH: 32 laps (62.976 miles) or 50 minutes


Qualifying (one lap) - 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 92.895 mph (1:16.267).

Race - (one lap) 2003, A.J. Allmendinger, 91.991 mph (1:17.016); (32 laps) 2000, Buddy Rice, 82.619 mph (45:44.100).

RACE ROUND: 1 of 12 in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

NEXT EVENT: The Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, May 20-22 in Monterrey, Mexico


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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Rocky Moran Jr. , Tom Nastasi , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Buddy Rice , Bob Siska , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Daniel Selznick , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Lee Atkins , Fernando Rees , Roby Feazell , Dan Cobb , Brian McAtee , Ben Johnston , Chris Dyson
Teams Dyson Racing