TONIS KASEMETS SNARES FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC VICTORY IN OPENING RACE OF PORTLAND DOUBLEHEADER PORTLAND, Oregon (June 18, 2005) -- It's not often that a driver can celebrate winning their first career pole position and first race win in the...
TONIS KASEMETS SNARES FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC VICTORY IN OPENING RACE OF PORTLAND DOUBLEHEADER
PORTLAND, Oregon (June 18, 2005) -- It's not often that a driver can celebrate winning their first career pole position and first race win in the same day, but Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) enjoyed that rare racing sweep Saturday at Portland International Raceway. After starting his Saturday by winning his first Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama pole position for the second race of the doubleheader weekend at Portland, Kasemets closed the day by capturing his first Atlantic victory.
Kasemets took advantage of a great start to the opening race of the weekend, made a daring pass at the challenging 1.964-mile road course and fought off some hard-charging challengers down the stretch to produce his first series win at the BOSPoker.com Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Portland.
Germany's Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors), who earned his first Atlantic pole on Friday, brought the 19-car Atlantic field cleanly through the difficult PIR Festival Curves at the start of today's event. Kasemets, starting fourth, passed both Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com/T. Christy) and Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) in Turn 1 at the start and immediately began putting pressure on Wirth at the front of the pack.
The 20-year-old Wirth turned away several challenges by Kasemets, leading the first 24 laps of the 35-lap event, but it was only a matter of time before the quicker car of Kasemets would make its way to the point. Wirth and Kasemets battled wheel-to-wheel and actually made contact in Turn 12 before Kasemets fought his way by to capture the lead on the front straightaway.
From there, the second-year Atlantic driver had to withstand some heat being applied by Zwolsman for the final 10 laps of the event. Recovering from a poor start, Zwolsman -- the series championship leader -- found his speed late in the race. He recorded the fastest lap of the event on his 24th turn around PIR and he made life pretty interesting for Kasemets as the race wore on. For the second consecutive event, Kasemets and Zwolsman battled for the lead but the results were reversed from Monterrey, Mexico where Zwolsman took the checkered flag for his first series win. This time it was Kasemets who earned the victory, edging his rival by just 1.049 seconds at the finish line. The finish represented the third consecutive podium result for the 26-year-old driver who hails from the Netherlands.
Wirth held on to finish third for the first podium of his young Atlantic career. Kelley also produced his best series result as he came home in fourth place. Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) of Canada recorded his third consecutive top-five result of 2005 as he crossed the line fifth for Polestar Racing Group.
David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Aviacsa/RocaAcero/Multigama/Martiga) also ran well, finishing sixth in his second Atlantic race of the season. The US RaceTronics pilot earned a third-place result in his season debut in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico and he followed it up with another good result on Saturday.
After announcing earlier this week that he will compete in the Atlantic championship for the remainder of the year, Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) recorded his best series finish among his five Atlantic starts. Unser qualified ninth but improved to seventh at the checkered flag.
Finishing eighth, veteran road racer Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) came home in the same position where he qualified. Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) of Great Britain recovered from a spin while running seventh late in the race to finish ninth for her worst result of her rookie campaign. Dan Selznick closed out the top 10 finishers and he earned a bonus championship point for the improving the most positions during the race as he came from 15th on the starting grid.
With the second-place performance, Zwolsman extends his series points lead after the first round of this weekend's doubleheader. The "Driving Dutchman" now has 88 points through three rounds and leads both Kasemets and Bessette by 13 points entering Sunday's race. Legge is now fourth in the title chase, 21 points behind the leader, while Kelley ranks fifth, 27 markers behind.
Sunday's Round 4 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama will take the checkered flag at 10 a.m. PT and is scheduled for 35 laps or 45 minutes. Both of this weekend's events can be seen on tape delay on SPEED Channel beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 25.
ATLANTIC RACE NOTES
* Justin Sofio was the leading C2 class finisher today and he came home 11th overall. Sofio, who also led the C2 class at Long Beach earlier this year, had the fastest C2 race lap today as well, earning a bonus point in the race for the 2005 Yokohama Tire C2 Cup.
* Kasemets' winning race time of 42:38.821 represented a new course record on the recently re-designed Portland circuit. Zwolsman's fastest race lap of 1:09.269 is also a new series mark at PIR.
Quotes from the top three finishers from today's session follow:
TONIS KASEMETS (Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis): "I am very happy with the result. It was a very consistent race though the car was giving up at the end but I still had a great time. It is difficult to pass even if you are faster. You have to choose the right moment. I did not mean to hit Andreas in the straight away but it happened so fast...and I apologize. It is incredible to win this race and I am kind of stunned right now."
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (Condor Motorsports): "The start was pretty bad on my side. Somebody hit my front wing so the wing was not working properly after that and I got quite a lot of understeer because of that. So it was difficult to follow the other cars. But I managed to get real close to Tonis at the end so it was not so bad. I knew I was not going to pass him but I wanted to put some pressure on him. So far I am really happy with my performances. In Long Beach I did not even know if I was going to do other races in the series and today here I am, leading the championship! That's not I was expecting before the start of the season."
ANDREAS WIRTH (Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "I had a good beginning, the car was good, and after Tonis hit me I thought there was something wrong with the alignment because it was getting worse and worse every lap. I finish on the podium but this is disappointing for me. I have to positions to gain for the race tomorrow and I will see what I can do."