DEFENDING C2 CHAMPION JUSTIN SOFIO TO RETURN TO ATLANTIC GRID FULL-TIME IN 2006 WITH MATHIASEN MOTORSPORTS INDIANAPOLIS (March 7, 2006) -- This Valentine's Day brought about a unique opportunity for 2005 Atlantic series C2 class...
DEFENDING C2 CHAMPION JUSTIN SOFIO TO RETURN TO ATLANTIC GRID FULL-TIME IN 2006 WITH MATHIASEN MOTORSPORTS
INDIANAPOLIS (March 7, 2006) -- This Valentine's Day brought about a unique opportunity for 2005 Atlantic series C2 class champion Justin Sofio. Not only did the 26-year-old native of Arleta, California get a chance to attend the unveiling of the new 2006 Atlantic car in Los Angeles on February 14. He also got the opportunity to sit in the new Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama machine that evening, touching off a string of events that eventually led to today's announcement that Sofio will return to compete with a full-season effort in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
"I basically went to the unveiling as a way to kind of say goodbye to my dream of racing with the big boys in Atlantics," said Sofio who attended the much-anticipated debut of the new-generation Atlantic car at the Petersen Automotive Museum with his team owner from last season, Ray Mathiasen. "After the unveiling I got a chance to sit in the car and check it out Ray and I began talking. We found out that there was a car available to purchase and we basically just decided to go for it. I really have to thank Ray. He's just as passionate about owning a race car team as I am about driving. He's been a blessing and there's no way I could do this without him."
With support from Mathiasen, Sofio will graduate to the full championship class this season as he plans to contest all 12 Atlantic races, piloting the #26 Mathiasen Motorsports/RLM Investments car.
The move into a full-time entry in North America's top open-wheel development category highlights a racing Cinderella story for Sofio. A former series mechanic who joined Binder Racing in 1997, Sofio always had dreams of converting his go-kart racing success into a career in race cars. He earned his first break in 2004 when he went from the garage to the racetrack, making his first Atlantic start for Binder Racing at Long Beach. Taking the green flag in front of his hometown crowd on his 25th birthday, Sofio made the most of his opportunity winning in the C2 class for pre-existing Atlantic equipment. He recaptured the magic at Long Beach last season, once again winning in C2 and Mathiasen Motorsports agreed to run the determined racer for the remainder of the season. Sofio went on to claim seven C2 victories in nine starts in 2005, clinching the class championship in his first extended season of racing.
With the overwhelming interest in the new breed of Atlantic car, featuring a Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth engine, the Atlantic championship will no longer feature a C2 category this season. But C2 will be well represented with its defending champion battling wheel-to-wheel with the other top up-and-coming stars of racing this season in the talent-rich Atlantic field.
Sofio will continue to do the bulk of the engineering duties on his car, much as he did last season. He's also enlisting the help of former Atlantic racer and 2004 C2 champ Cam Binder, who will serve as team manager at Mathiasen Motorsports. The team will take delivery of its new car this week and will be prepped and ready to go with the rest of the Atlantic teams at the first test session with the 2006 vehicles, March 21-22 at the California Speedway road course. The Champ Car Atlantic Championship season officially gets underway April 7-9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"Last year was the first year that I have participated in any form of motor racing as a team owner and to have won the C2 Atlantic Championship was a dream come true," said owner Ray Mathiasen. "It's exciting to once again have Justin as our driver and Cam as team manager and together they bring the skills and passion for racing to enable us to compete and win in what will be a very challenging series in 2006. We're really looking forward to the first race of the season at our home track in Long Beach. It should be an incredible weekend and we can hardly wait for the season to start."
For more information on the Atlantic series, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.