With the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic cars stepping up from their usual side-show status to take center stage at the legendary Grand Prix Player's du Trois RivierÃ¨s this weekend, the entire Lynx Racing team, including drivers Buddy Rice and Mike...
With the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic cars stepping up from their usual side-show status to take center stage at the legendary Grand Prix Player's du Trois Rivierès this weekend, the entire Lynx Racing team, including drivers Buddy Rice and Mike Conte, has been working flat-out to regain their rightful spot in the spotlight. With a testing and development schedule that rivals that of many CART teams, a necessity in today's ultra-competitive Atlantic environment, Rice has scored top-6 finishes in each of the first six races of the 1999 season. Podium finishes at Milwaukee, Montreal and Road America have helped him move into sole control of second place in the championship points battle with 74 points. Anthony Lazzaro leads with 97, and Alexandre Tagliani, last year's Trois Rivierès winner, is in third with 72. A win is worth 20 points, and six races remain on the schedule. In this race last year, Rice qualified seventh and finished 20th, the victim of a mechanical problem on lap 43. His then-teammate, Memo Gidley (now driving the #15 Alpine/Walker Honda in the CART FedEx series), qualified and finished fourth. "Even though I didn't have a very good race here last year, I really like this track, and because everybody in town is completely into the race, the atmosphere is great," says Rice, who drives the #19 Lynx Racing Swift. "The track itself is very technical, so you have to drive hard but very precisely. It's also fairly bumpy, so the team has to have done their shock absorber homework… and we have. We've been running close to the front for the last three races, and even though Trois Rivierès is kind of the 'home track' for the Canadian drivers in the series, we're going for the win." Mike Conte, who joined the Lynx team at the beginning of the season, had an equally equivocal race here last year driving for another team. He qualified 28th and, after a race-long struggle with an ill-handling car, wound up 21st. This year, although still in the process of adapting to a new team, Conte is 11th in the points battle with four top-10 finishes. "There's an old saying that goes 'The amazing thing about a dancing bear is not how well he dances, but that he dances at all'," says Conte, driver of the #17 Lynx Racing/White-Black Design Swift. "These Atlantic cars are more like cats in the sense that they're tough to train, but we've got them dancing pretty well by now. Setup is important here, but so is the psychological aspect. This race is at the very heart of the Canadian passion for Atlantic racing, and all the drivers are hyped up so a fair amount of hardware gets bent early on and you lose precious practice time. The trick is to strike a balance between aggression and intelligence, and the driver who does that best will prevail." Lynx Racing, owned by Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, is a unique driver development program now in its ninth year of operation. The team's mission is to seek out young drivers with championship potential and provide them with the resources and training to realize that potential. Lynx alumni include CART FedEx drivers Patrick Carpentier (Player's/ Forsythe, Alex Barron (Marlboro Penske) and Memo Gidley (Alpine/ Walker). Also competing at Trois Rivierès will be the U.S. F2000 series and the Lynx-affiliated DSTP Motorsports team, with driver Bobby Oergel. Like Lynx, DSTP is a self-funded driver development program owned by a woman, Dede Rogers. Lynx and DSTP share the services of team manager/driving coach Steve Cameron and Engineer Jim Griffith. Alex Barron, Memo Gidley and Buddy Rice were all DSTP drivers before moving up to the Lynx Atlantic program.
Trois Rivierès Event Schedule:
Thursday, July 29 5:00 p.m. Driver's meeting
Friday, July 30 8:40 a.m. - 9:10 a.m. U.S. F2000 practice 9:25 a.m. - 9:55 a.m. Atlantic practice 1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Atlantic preliminary qualifying 3:05 p.m. - 3:35 p.m. U.S. F2000 preliminary qualifying
Saturday, July 31 9:25 a.m. - 9:55 a.m. Atlantic practice 10:10 a.m. - 10:40 a.m. U.S. F2000 qualifying 1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Atlantic final qualifying 2:45 p.m. Driver's meeting
Sunday, August 1 8:00 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. U.S. F2000 warm-up 8:20 a.m. - 8:35 a.m. Atlantic warm-up 11:20 a.m. U.S. F2000 race / 30 laps 1:45 p.m. Atlantic race / 45 laps / 68.43 miles
Other races this weekend include Trans-Am, Motorola Cup, World Challenge and Formula Ford.