Marco Andretti Logs Over 300 Miles in Two-Day Toyota Atlantic Test Session BUTTONWILLOW, CA (January 27, 2005) -- Marco Andretti learned at a very young age that the best way to adapt to a new race car is to jump in and give it everything ...
Marco Andretti Logs Over 300 Miles in Two-Day Toyota Atlantic Test Session
BUTTONWILLOW, CA (January 27, 2005) -- Marco Andretti learned at a very young age that the best way to adapt to a new race car is to jump in and give it everything you've got. The 17-year-old son of former Champ Car champion Michael Andretti and the grandson of legendary racer Mario Andretti brought that same attitude to his Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama test session over the last two days.
Enjoying a baptism by fire in his first-ever run in 240 HP Toyota Atlantic machine, Marco Andretti ran 324 miles on the 1.39-mile road course configuration at Buttonwillow Raceway Park on Wednesday and Thursday. He got the opportunity to push the car to its limits in both wet and dry conditions over the two full days of testing, recording a top lap time of 58.31 seconds.
The young Andretti earned the Atlantic test after capturing the 2004 Skip Barber National Championship. Under an agreement announced in 2003, the RuSPORT racing team agreed to provide an Atlantic test session to the Skip Barber National titlewinner. The RuSPORT squad won the Toyota Atlantic crown in '03 and moved up to the Champ Car World Series last season. RuSPORT enlisted the aid of the Sierra Sierra Enterprises Atlantic team for Marco Andretti's test and the talented young driver enjoyed the chance to work with the team while he adjusted to the nuances of the Atlantic car.
"I learned a lot about the set up of the car and it was great to be able to give some feedback to the team and see how those changes affected the car on the race track," said Andretti. "These cars are cool. They have a lot of grip in the corners and over the two days it beat me up a little bit, but you can really charge a corner hard. I definitely want to thank Sierra Sierra and RuSPORT for this opportunity."
Marco, who ran well in the rain during his first day of testing on Wednesday and continued his progress in the cool, dry weather on Thursday, continued the strong tradition of the Andretti family in the Toyota Atlantic Championship. His father won the series crown in 1983 while his uncle, Jeff Andretti, finished sixth in the Atlantic title chase during the 1989 season.
Performing under the watchful eye of Sierra Sierra driver development coach David Empringham, another former Atlantic champion, Marco Andretti drove aggressively in the #28 Pro-Works car that Ryan Dalziel guided to a second-place finish in the series championship last season.
"Overall I think Marco did a tremendous job," said Empringham, who won back-to-back Atlantic titles in 1993 and '94. "He adapted very quickly, wasn't overwhelmed at all and took charge of the car right away. He drove with a lot of confidence and he showed a great amount of determination."
Running alongside Andretti during the two days of the test was promising young Canadian driver Antoine Bessette. The Quebec native, who most recently competed in the Formula Renault and Barber Dodge Pro Series, also put in a lot of work over the two days logging 381 miles in the #27 Sierra Sierra car driven by Toyota Atlantic Rookie of the Year Andrew Ranger in 2004. Bessette recorded a top lap time of 58.20 seconds.
While Andretti has signed on to compete in the Star Mazda Series in 2005, Bessette is looking to compete full time in the Toyota Atlantic Championship this season. He tested an Atlantic car for the Brooks Associates Racing team in December and he's also shown the speed and the talent to run up front in North America's top open-wheel development series.
"Antoine approaches things a little differently than Marco but he also was able to achieve some success through his talents," commented Empringham, who supervised both drivers during the test. "Antoine was a little less aggressive in his driving style but he was still confident and was slightly smoother overall."
Empringham also praised the RuSPORT team for its continued commitment to give young drivers an opportunity to shine in an Atlantic car. "Giving inexperienced drivers the chance to work with an experienced Atlantic team is a huge asset for the drivers as they try to move forward and continue their development," said the two-time champion. "(RuSPORT team owner) Carl Russo and his team should be commended for giving Marco this opportunity and we need to see more teams step up and provide this kind of support."
The Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. The championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve.