Mont?rr?y: Season opener preview

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Round 1, Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey March 7-9, 2002, Monterrey, Mexico Event: Round 1 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 2.1-mile road course at Fundidora Park...

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship
Round 1, Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey
March 7-9, 2002, Monterrey, Mexico

Event: Round 1 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 2.1-mile road course at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico as Saturday's feature event at the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey. Saturday's race will mark the Atlantic Championship's debut race in Monterrey, Mexico.

Race Series: The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is the top rung on CART's "Ladder System", and is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART Champ car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.

Atlantic Schedule at Monterrey:

Thursday, March 7:
Testing 3:15 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m.

Friday, March 8:
Practice 11:45 a.m. -- 12:25 p.m.
Qualifying 4:10 p.m. -- 4:40 p.m.

Saturday, March 9:
Qualifying 9:00 a.m. -- 9:40 a.m.
RACE 3:00 p.m. -- 4:20 p.m. (32 laps/67.20 miles)

Race: For the first time since the 1992 Grand Prix of Miami, the CART Toyota Atlantic Preview: Championship will kick off it's season at a new venue. For the past nine seasons, veteran Atlantic teams and drivers have held an edge while re-visiting tracks from previous years. Ironically though, it is a trio of Atlantic rookies that can claim track experience at Fundidora Park, in Monterrey, Mexico. The 2002 season opener also marks the first time as a national series the Atlantic Championship has begun its schedule outside of the United States.

The new race in Monterrey is not the only new thing in Atlantic this year. Inaugural Atlantic races in Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado, plus joining the CART FedEx Championship with its first venture in Montreal, has given the 2002 schedule a new appearance from years past. Swift Engineering introduced the Swift 014.a as the new "spec" chassis replacing the Swift 008.a which has been in service since 1998. The Championship also returns to a points structure rooted to its past awarding the top 15 drivers with points instead of 12 as it has been the past three seasons. Capping it all off is substantially increased prize money that includes 12, $100,000 race purses and the $1,000,000 end of season points fund.

Host country driver, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) and United States teammate, Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a), both competed here last year in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. First year team, Dorricott Racing who won the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship with Townsend Bell, is also the only team to have raced at Fundidora Park last year. Completing the trio will be a third driver with P-1 Racing who competed at Fundidora Park last year. Fogarty finished third driving for Dorricott Racing while Diaz placed eleventh. Even though the three drivers and Dorricott racing are familiar with the track, whether or not this will be an advantage to them will depend on how quickly they have adapted to the Swift racing chassis, the only one allowed in Atlantic competition.

Making a return from his third place standing in the 2001 Atlantic Championship, placing him as the top returning driver, will be Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a). Hand fell two points short of taking over second place from Canada's David Rutledge last year with an end of season charge that he hopes will carry over into the 2002 Championship. Hand scored podium finishes in the final four races of the season including two wins which came at Houston and Vancouver. Both tracks were temporary street circuits that Hand had never raced on before; so learning a new track like the one at Fundidora Park should be no problem for the 23-year old California driver. Rutledge graduated from the series at the conclusion of the 2001 season and Lynx Racing will reload with the tandem of Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) and Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a). Both drivers proved they have the material to compete for a Championship during the 2001 season. Valiante finished ninth in the Championship with Lynx despite competing in only five races collecting two runner-up finishes and finishing no worse than sixth. Like Rutledge, Valiante hails from the Vancouver, Canada area. Ryley had a roller coaster 2001 season driving for Worldspeed Motorsports, but grabbed one pole at Milwaukee as well as two podium finishes.

Other Atlantic veterans returning include Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Pegaso Swift 014.a), who has been reported to be very fast in pre-season testing. Lavin, who spent five seasons in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship, returns for a second season with Michael Shank Racing after finishing seventh in the 2001 Atlantic Championship. Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a) will return with first year team Sigma Autosport teamed with rookie, David Wieringa (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a). Moran Jr. is fresh off of his first career Atlantic win at the 2001 season finale at Laguna Seca. Jim Griffith who was a driving force behind Buddy Rice's 2000 Championship with DSTP Motorsports will head up the two car operation for Sigma. Wieringa will be making the move up the ladder from the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Swift 008.a) and Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing Swift 014.a) round out the veterans with their sights set on the season ending trophy. Macri returns with P-1 Racing after a successful 2001 season that saw him place fifth in the overall Championship. Like Joey Hand, Macri finished 2001 strong collecting four top-5's in the season's final five events. After taking a year off to race in Europe, Gurney returns to drive for Dorricott Racing's three car effort. Gurney finished eighth in the 2000 Atlantic Championship earning one pole and a top finish of third.

Hylton Motorsports and Hoover Orsi earned the #1 car number as a result of their Championship performance last season. Orsi has graduated from the series and Hylton will entrust American rookie, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a) with their hopes of defending their title. Like Wieringa, Reay is moving up the CART ladder system from the Barber Dodge Pro Series where he finished fifth in the 2001 Championship collecting two wins. Yet another Barber Dodge graduate will enter into the Atlantic Championship this year. Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing Swift 008.a), who hails from the Netherlands, finished a close second in last year's BDPS points and will team with Rodolfo Lavin at Michael Shank Racing.

Argentina's Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviasca Standox Maizoro Swift 014.a) and Mexico's Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviasca Standox Maizoro Swift 014.a) will pilot Alan Berg's new Atlantic team in 2002. Coronas has an extensive background racing around the world including Championships in the ILP/Formula de las Americas. His teammate, Figeueroa is also moving up from the ILP/Formula de las Americas. Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Redline Glycomax Ironclad Swift 014.a) takes over the seat for Worldspeed Motorsports vacated by Grant Ryley's departure to Lynx Racing. Figge has been progressing up the ranks racing in Formula Mazda and the USF2000 Championship.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship's schedule will pace itself through the spring showing a month break before the teams take part in Round 2 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 14th. After another hiatus, the Championship gets in full swing for a busy summer of racing beginning with Round 3 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 2.

Quote Board: Joey Hand #27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a "I'm looking forward to the first race of the year. We finished the season so well last year; we hope to keep the roll going for this season. It would be great to win the inaugural race in Monterrey. Preseason testing went very well, and we have high expectations for the upcoming season. The Toyota Atlantic series is going to have some of the best, and most exciting racing in the world this year. There are a lot of drivers who will have a chance to win each race, but we feel we will take our fair share of race wins. Race wins are critical in winning championships, and so are podium finishes--and we plan on having a lot of both. The DSTP crew has worked very hard over winter to get two, quality, brand-new, racecars on the track and going fast. I would like to give them a win Mexico for all of their hard work."

Bob Dorricott Owner, Dorrocott Racing "We have been working very hard over the winter testing a .008a to learn the Atlantic car. The first few races will be a challenge for us but we are prepared. The new Atlantic car is a very well built car. There have been a few bugs that needed to be worked out but I think we are now ready to compete on an even keel."

Jon Fogarty #32 Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a I am more than ready to begin the 2002 season, especially after coming of a less then memorable 2001. While a new car is sure to be a challenge, with much to learn, I have confidence in my abilities as well as my engineer Burke Harrison. In addition we have resources in our two other engineers, a few crew members and Alex Gurney who all bring experience from previous years in Toyota Atlantic. This knowledge and the team oriented atmosphere at Dorricott should help us make a quick start to the 2002 season. For sure it will be a challenge, but both myself and the team are not only up for it, we welcome it."

"Monterrey is an excellent place to kick off the season, and I don't say that just because I have been there before. The atmosphere is charged and the whole place is into racing. That sort of energy is contagious. It makes one look forward to a whole season. The track is great. I suspect that there will be a bit more grip than last year but we can't be certain until we arrive. I expect a good Dorricott fan base with Lius on board, which will make it all the better."

Luis Diaz #33 Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a "This may be the most important race of my life to date. Thanks to Dorricott Racing I will have a very competitive car. My sponsors are also sponsoring the Monterrey Grand Prix so I know they are hoping that some very good things will come from em and the team in our first race together."

"I think the Atlantic car has great balance is much easier to drive than the Indy Lights cars due to it being lighter in weight and having down force. The sequential shifting is great because it makes it easy to shift. I expect to find some "tricks" to this car because all the cars have their own character when it comes to learning how best to race them."

Jonathan Macri #31 P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Swift 008.a " I'm extremely excited to be going to Mexico for the first race. Preseason testing has gone well as the team and I feel like we are prepared for the beginning of the season."

Ryan Hunter-Reay #1 Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Medlock Ames Winery Swift "It is very exciting to be racing in Mexico, it will be my first Atlantic race and the first time the series has been here, it is a great addition to the schedule. With the first race of the season being at a track new to the series, we will definitely be playing on a level field, as it is new to everyone. The Fundidora circuit is a very low grip circuit, that is something I am really looking forward to. I love to race in the rain, and with the low grip, it should be a similar condition, which I definitely look forward to. The lack of grip will definitely throw another factor into the overall equation. The Hylton team has been working hard to make sure we are prepared, and I feel I am the strongest I have ever been physically and mentally, so it's very good feeling to get the season started."

Michael Valiante #19 Lynx Racing Swift 014.a We're looking forward to Monterrey as the first race of what is going to be an incredibly competitive Atlantic season. The field includes every hot young driver in open wheel racing, and it's going to take a really good team to win the championship. Based on the off-season testing we've done, and how well everyone is working together, I think Lynx is going to be the team to beat. A win in Mexico would be a great way to start the season, and that's what we're going for.

Grant Ryley #23 Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a "Of course I am looking forward to Monterey but I think more so I am looking forward to this fresh start with Lynx racing. To be with Lynx is a dream come true for me and to have a teammate like Mike, I think, has been good for both of us. We have slightly different styles and we will be able to teach each other a great deal this season and that will make Lynx a much stronger team." "As for the championship as a whole I feel that with the knowledge of Steve and Rick Cameron, my new engineer Tim Lewis and the professionalism of the entire crew we have to be considered one of the favorites. We have had some very educational test days and have thrown a ton of stuff at the car and found what we think works very well and I'm confident that you'll see the Lynx cars at the front of the grid all season long." "Its been a long layoff and I get the chills when I think to next Saturday when I will hear 'green, green, green' on the radio. Lets rock and roll."

Sepp Koster #5 Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort/Utert/Respons Swift "I'm looking forward to what promises to be one of the most competitive Atlantic seasons ever. It will be a challenge and a true test to show what I can do in a racecar. It's an opportunity that I've been working toward for a long time, and I'm ready and anxious to get going. With the team that I have behind me, I'm aiming to be in the mix for the podium from race one."

Rodolfo Lavin #11 Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a "We're looking forward to having a very good result at Monterrey this weekend. Our testing days have been very successful, so we're hoping to put on a good show for all the Mexican fans, as well as my family and friends that will be there. The biggest challenge facing us will probably be the track, which looks as it will be very slippery, just as it was last year. But it should be a great weekend and I can't wait to get started."

Ryan Dalziel #28 Michael Shank Racing Swift 008.a "I pretty excited to be doing the season from the start. Being at Monterrey is really a bit of a bonus for me, so it will be important that I take advantage of it and get some points, and I'm pretty sure I can do that. I haven't seen the track in person yet, so I'm not quite sure what to expect. I've heard it's kind of like a street circuit, which is totally new to me, so I will just have to get used to it as quick as I can. Since this will be my first Atlantic race, my goal is just to be the quickest among the drivers in the older cars, which hopefully will be good enough to put me in the top six or sevenoverall."

Michael Shank Owner, Michael Shank Racing "We're just real anxious to get the season going. Our off-season testing program went better than it ever has before, so we're real pleased with that. All three of our drivers are excellent talents with a lot of potential, which is what you want to have in a development series like the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. And the new car has been really good for us, so it will be interesting to see how it does under race conditions."

Television: Speed Channel will broadcast Saturday's Round 1 race from Monterrey, Mexico
Broadcasts: on same day delay that evening at 9:30 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race at a time to be announced later this week. Check www.toyotaatlantic.com for updated information.

-cart/atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Jon Fogarty , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Jonathan Macri , David Wieringa , Rocky Moran Jr. , Luis Diaz , Danny Sullivan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Buddy Rice , Rodolfo Lavin , Alex Figge , Sepp Koster , Waldemar Coronas , Eduardo Figueroa , Tim Lewis , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing