Dalziel Looks to Extend Points Lead; Goes for Seventh Straight Podium Finish in Lone Toyota Atlantic Appearance in Mexico at Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2004) -- Leading the championship standings for the first time...
Dalziel Looks to Extend Points Lead; Goes for Seventh Straight Podium Finish in Lone Toyota Atlantic Appearance in Mexico at Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.
INDIANAPOLIS (May 18, 2004) -- Leading the championship standings for the first time in his Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama career following a victory in the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, third-year driver Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works) enters this weekend's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix (SPEED Channel, May 30 -- 1 p.m. ET) looking to extend his points lead as well as an impressive string of podium finishes.
In each of the past six Toyota Atlantic events dating to the Trois-Rivieres event in 2003, the Scot has finished inside the top three, and his run of podium results is the longest since Brazilian Hoover Orsi had eight consecutive top-three finishes during his championship-winning campaign in 2001. Dalziel's streak was highlighted by the Long Beach victory, which was the third of his Toyota Atlantic career and his first since winning at Portland last year, and the triumph propelled him into the lead in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic point standings. He currently holds a seven-point advantage over his rookie Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate, Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Charmin/Mr. Clean/Snugabye).
That being said, Dalziel will have his hands full this weekend if he is to maintain the streak and his championship lead. One clear favorite in Monterrey will be 2002 series champion Jon Fogarty (#96 Wine Country Motorsports), who earned his first career Toyota Atlantic victory in his first-ever start in the series two years ago and also had a podium result in the Dayton Indy Lights event at Monterrey's Fundidora Park in 2001.
Fogarty was extremely quick at Long Beach, as evidenced by the fact that he started on the outside of the front row and ran second to Dalziel through the early stages in Southern California before dropping out of contention with a mechanical failure. Clearly, Fogarty will be looking to avenge the Long Beach disappointment in Mexico and seems well-positioned to do so considering that he has finished inside the top-five in 12 of his 15 career starts in Toyota Atlantic competition.
Based on her 2003 performance on the 2.104-mile temporary road circuit in Mexico and a recent run of top-five performances, Team Rahal's Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) could also play a major role in Monterrey. Last year, Patrick became the first woman to finish on the podium of a Toyota Atlantic event when she charged from fifth on the starting grid to finish third in her series debut. Armed with a full year of experience in the series and three consecutive top-five finishes (including a career-best second place finish in the '03 finale in Miami), this could be the weekend that Patrick makes series history again.
Another one to watch in Monterrey will be Ranger, whose campaign for the $10,000 BG Products Rookie of the Year award got off to a great start following his runner-up performance in Long Beach. The 17-year-old French Canadian has been on the pace in testing and throughout the Long Beach weekend, and may prove to be the toughest challenger for his teammate.
One must also not forget Bryan Sellers (#19 Lynx Racing), who has established career-best results in each of his five career Toyota Atlantic starts to date, most recently with a third-place showing at Long Beach. If Sellers holds form, a top-two performance could be in the offing, especially considering the fact that his Lynx Racing team won this event last year with driver Michael Valiante. Likewise, Danish rookie Ronnie Bremer (#10 Port-A-Cool) brings loads of experience on permanent road courses from his British Formula 3 days, and should feel right at home on the permanent facility in
Fundidora Park. With a fourth place performance to open his Toyota Atlantic career in Long Beach, Bremer has established himself as a serious contender.
Not to be overlooked is third-year driver Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports). The Californian was lightning-quick in Long Beach with Pacific Coast Motorsports, as he actually posted the second-fastest qualifying time but started third on the grid by virtue of the fact that teammate Fogarty was the quickest in Saturday's rainy final qualifying session. Figge also succumbed to mechanical difficulties in Long Beach, but he appears poised to improve dramatically on his previous best finish of fifth.
Toyota Atlantic veteran Rocky Moran Jr. (#4 Healthcare Privileges), who finished sixth in his lone previous appearance in Monterrey in 2002, could also be a factor this weekend. Moran is joined on the two-car Polestar Racing Group by Canadian Philip Fayer (#3 PaySystems), who is focused on improving upon his 12th place finish in the Long Beach opener. Rounding out the lineup of veterans is Venezuelan Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource), who is also the lone Spanish-speaking driver in the only 2004 Toyota Atlantic event south of the border. He looks to build upon an eighth place showing to open the '04 campaign in Long Beach.
The talented Toyota Atlantic rookie crop is bolstered by Garcia's Transnet Racing teammate, Jonathan Bomarito (#8 Dixien/Omnisource), who started his maiden Toyota Atlantic voyage with a sixth place performance in Long Beach. Aussie Josh Hunt (#15 Wright Patton Shakesepeare/Atkinson Gore Group) was also impressive in his Toyota Atlantic debut with a ninth place run after starting 15th; and high schooler Chris Festa (#25 SpacePak/CareCentric) who started 10th in Long Beach and overcame a flat tire to earn an 11th place result in his series debut.
All cars in the field are Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.
This weekend's schedule calls for the Toyota Atlantic machines to make their first appearance on the 2.104-mile permanent road course on Friday at 9:15 a.m. local time for a 30-minute session. Friday's schedule concludes with a 40-minute first-round qualifying session from 1-1:40 p.m. On Saturday, the Atlantic cars return to the track for another practice session from 9:15 -- 9:45 a.m., followed by final qualifying from 1-1:30 p.m.
Sunday's race day schedule provides for a 15-minute warm-up beginning at 8:30 a.m. and Round 2 of the 12-race 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix is scheduled to take the green flag at 12:30 p.m. The scheduled distance for the race is 32 laps (67.328 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.
SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 30, and the event will also air to U.S. service men and women in 77 countries through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, visit the series' official web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com.