Lynx Racing Signs Vancouver Native Michael Valiante For The 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Season Lynx Racing announced today that Michael Valiante, 21, of Vancouver B.C. has signed with the team for the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic season. ...
Lynx Racing Signs Vancouver Native Michael Valiante For The 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Season
Lynx Racing announced today that Michael Valiante, 21, of Vancouver B.C. has signed with the team for the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic season. Valiante, who scored two podiums and two top-five finishes in five starts with the Lynx team in 2001, finished ninth in the championship and will replace the graduating David Rutledge as driver of the team's traditional #19 car. Rutledge is working on moving up to CART, a process the team will assist with, as it has with previous graduates including Patrick Carpentier (Player's/ Forsythe), Memo Gidley (Target Chip Ganassi) and Alex Barron (Arciero-Blair). For the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic season, Valiante will be teamed with Grant Ryley, 28, of San Jose, California who will race a car fielded by Lynx and sponsored by the Kart2CART program of Microsoft executive Rick Waddell. "Lynx is a legend among young drivers looking for a way to graduate up into CART, and I'm thrilled to be chosen for the team," says Valiante. "The five races I drove with the team this season were a real education in how a top team operates and what it takes to compete at this level. My goal this year was to satisfy both myself and the team that I can learn and run fast at the same time, and I feel I've achieved that. As for next year, the team is ready and able to win another championship, and I'm going to do my best to give them what they want. I'd also like to thank Lynx for the opportunity, David Rutledge for his generosity and help this year and the friends, family and sponsors who helped me get here, including Copart Auto Auctions, Newlife Development, Diagem and Italian Motors." Valiante got his professional racing career off to a spectacular start, winning the Canadian and North American 'Formula A' karting championships in 1996. In 1997, he won the prestigious ELF Constructor's Championship, as well as the U.S. Grand Nationals and the IKF Gold Cup series. Moving up to racing cars in 1997, he attended both the Skip Barber and Bridgestone racing schools. In 1998 he won the ELF Campus Shoot-Out in Le Mans, France, the North American 125 Shifter Formula C championship, and the ELF Constructor's championship. This resulted in a full-season scholarship in the Skip Barber 2.0 Series, where he won both Rookie of the Year and the series championship. This spectacular performance earned him the Rio Big Scholarship, a fully-sponsored, full-season ride in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. During his first year in the 1999 BDPS, he scored seven top-10 and four top-5 finishes and was co-Rookie of the Year. In 2000, he finished in the top-10 eight times, was on the pole in the first race of the season at Sebring, and won from the pole at Road Atlanta and finished sixth overall in the championship. "Michael is an absolute natural to be a CART star in the future, and we're delighted to help him get there," says Lynx co-owner Peggy Haas. "We've had our eye on him for a couple of years, and the job he did with us this year simply confirmed our assessment that we're the right team for him and he's the right driver for us. We're very much looking forward to the coming season." 2002 will mark the 12th anniversary of Lynx Racing, one of the most unique organizations in auto racing today. Created and owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, Lynx is both a championship-winning racing team and a uniquely successful driver development program that focuses on a driver's mental, psychological and spiritual growth in addition to their on-track skills. "Part of what we look for in a Lynx driver is a certain level of self-awareness, spirituality and a willingness to look inside yourself for improvement in your on-track performance," says Doty. "Michael has demonstrated all those things, as well as the ability to take what he learns -- both technically and emotionally -- and put it to use in the car. It's obvious that, like Memo Gidley, the thing he loves most is driving and winning, and that makes it exciting for all of us." The Lynx mission is to seek out young drivers with the desire and potential to become champions at the highest levels of the sport and provide them with the funding, equipment and training to take the last step toward realizing that potential, a process the team calls 'Destiny by Design.' Lynx alumni include CART FedEx drivers Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron and Memo Gidley. "We had a hard choice to make between Michael and Jason LaPoint who also drove several races with us this year," says Lynx team manager and driving coach Steve Cameron. "They're both very talented, worked well with the team, had exceptional technical feedback and demonstrated the ability to run at the front at tracks they've never raced on before against drivers with much more experience. We are still very impressed with Jason and have recommended him to several other teams. That said, Michael was able to achieve podium results for the team and that tipped the balance in his favor. I'm confident he will challenge for the Atlantic championship in 2002."
David Rutledge update
In addition to finishing second in the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic championship in his second year with the team, and being nominated for the second-annual Greg Moore Legacy Award, Lynx Racing driver David Rutledge has received a pair of important awards. Presented at the Atlantic season-end banquet in Monterey, California, Rutledge, 23, of Vancouver, B.C. was given both the Gilles Villeneuve Award and the Worldcom 'Fast Pace' Award. The Villeneuve award was instituted in 1989 by former Atlantic champion Steve Shelton and presented this year by Jim Murphy, writer and forum host of Championship Racing Magazine. It is given each year to the driver who "possesses extraordinary ability and has that special star quality and who has distinguished himself through sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance." The Worldcom Fast Pace award was presented to Rutledge by WorldCom Sports Marketing Senior Manager, Angela Ferragamo, in recognition of being the driver with the highest number of WorldCom Fast Pace Awards for the fastest race laps at each race during the season.
A Gathering of the Tribe
For the first time since the Fontana season finale last year, there will be three Lynx drivers competing in a CART FedEx race simultaneously as Alex Barron -- replacing Max Wilson for the final two races of the 2001 season in the #25 Arciero-Blair / Driving 101 Ford-Cosworth/Lola -- will join Lynx graduates Patrick Carpentier (Player's/ Forsythe) and Memo Gidley (Target Chip Ganassi) on the grid at both Surfer's Paradise and Fontana. Barron, who won both the "Rookie of the Year" award and the Atlantic series championship with Lynx Racing in 1997, broke into the CART series in 1998 with Dan Gurney's All American Racers Toyota/Eagle, where he became the first driver to lead a CART race with a Toyota engine. He left Gurney in mid-'99 and drove two races later that season for Marlboro Team Penske. He then signed with Dale Coyne Racing to replace injured Takuya Kurosawa for the final six races of the 2000 season, running second and challenging for the win until sidelined by engine failures in the final two events -- Australia and Fontana. Although without a regular ride this year, he did two tests with Coyne at the behest of CART and Firestone at the Lausitz EuroSpeedway and England's Rockingham Motor Speedway as a precursor to the series' debut races at those venues, did the development driving of the new Swift 014 Atlantic car, and ran a single IRL race with Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Gateway International Raceway. "I am looking forward to the opportunities that Arciero-Blair is giving me at Australia and Fontana," he said. "Last year, I was in contention to win both events; then we had a mechanical problem. 2001 has been a long year not racing a Champ Car. But I have kept myself in shape by working out, testing the 2002 Atlantic chassis and testing for Firestone at the new tracks in Germany and England. It will be good to be back in CART competition and to race for this new team." Barron's exceptional performances at Fontana and Surfers Paradise at the end of last season were memorable enough to prompt team co-owner Larry Blair to make a late-season change. "Alex has already proven himself at both of our remaining venues and that is attractive to me as a team owner," said Larry Blair. "For a first-year team, this has been a season of change with ownership, engines, engineers and driver change. While Max has had wonderful runs on permanent road courses, the experience and valuable input that Alex will bring is needed for the team at this time. I am continuing to make changes to Arciero-Blair Racing to improve and expand the team and its knowledge in this highly competitive series. We are working hard on our plans and sponsorship for the 2002 season; we feel that good on-track results can expand our potential for the future."