San Jose: Race notes

KATHERINE LEGGE GOES BACK-TO-BACK, WINNING IN SAN JOSE FOR SECOND STRAIGHT VICTORY AND THIRD OF HER TOYOTA ATLANTIC CAREER SAN JOSE, California (July 31, 2005) -- Taking advantage of a strong start and some attrition in front of her on a tight...


SAN JOSE, California (July 31, 2005) -- Taking advantage of a strong start and some attrition in front of her on a tight and bumpy street circuit, Great Britain's Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) continued her remarkable rookie season in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama Sunday by winning the Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose Atlantic race (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel -- Saturday, August 6 at 1:30 p.m. ET).

Starting from fourth position on the 1.448-mile downtown street circuit in San Jose, Legge got a great jump at the green flag start to the race, moving up to third place. The 25-year-old Polestar Racing Group driver then made the most of mechanical problems experienced by the two drivers in front of her to seize control of the race and fight to her second consecutive victory and third of the season. Her impressive performance, coupled with the misfortunes of the series competitors that were in front of her in the Atlantic championship standings, allowed Legge to move from fifth all the way up to third in the '05 title chase.

From the opening moments of the 45-lap event, Legge demonstrated her speed and aggressiveness. But the native of Northampton, England wasn't the only driver to enjoy a strong start. Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) came out strong and moved from second place past polesitter Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) in Turn 1. After surrendering the pole position to Zwolsman after crashing in qualifying, Kasemets looked poised to take his revenge as he began to put distance between himself and his rival for the Atlantic title.

But on the ninth lap of the race, Kasemets heart sank as his car's shifter lever snapped off in his hands. He went from the lead to the pits as he was forced to park his car due to the mechanical failure.

Carrying a 15-point lead over Kasemets in the series title chase into the race, Zwolsman saw a golden opportunity to put some distance between himself and his pursuer in the standings after Kasemets' problems. Zwolsman captured the lead and set out in search of his fourth win of the year. It wasn't meant to be, however, as the 26-year-old Dutch driver began experiencing braking and transmission problems. Fighting a stubborn shifting issue, Zwolsman was unable to hold off the faster car of Legge.

For the second time in two races, Legge passed Zwolsman for the lead, this time battling her way past the series leader in Turn 8 on the 29th lap. She led the rest of the way, but she hardly had an easy drive to the checkered flag.

With Zwolsman trying to overcome his car's struggles, David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) began to apply pressure. Martinez was able to overtake Zwolsman to claim second position on Lap 38. From there, the Mexican rookie began to track down Legge.

Just six laps for the finish, Legge's teammate, Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design), made hard contact with the wall in Turn 4, ending his day as he was fighting Zwolsman for third place. The incident brought out a yellow caution flag and Legge did a solid job pulling away from Martinez and Zwolsman on the Lap 42 restart. The brash Brit beared down from there and beat Martinez to the finish line by 1.084 seconds.

Zwolsman retains the lead in the series title hunt and he now holds a 243-210 advantage over Kasemets with three races remaining in the season. Legge moved up to third in the standings, just 35 points behind the leader.

The runner-up finish for Martinez equaled his best Atlantic result while Zwolsman did an awesome job holding off rookie Alan Scuito (#27 Dean R/C Products/Sparco) for his seventh podium result of the year. Scuito's fourth-place effort completed an impressive debut Atlantic weekend for the 17-year-old racer from Orange, California. Germany's Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) saw his streak of six straight podiums come to an end but he managed a fifth-place result for Brooks Associates Racing.

American Al Unser III (#10 Racing) ran a strong race, improving from his 10th-place starting spot to finish sixth for the second consecutive race. San Jose native Grant Ryley (#22 Intervision Systems/Network Appliance/Juniper Networks/Extreme Networks/Bakbone/Trend Micro) finished seventh in his first series start in nearly three years. Oxnard, California's Phil Giebler (#41 Jos. J Albanese Concrete Construction) also ran well in his series debut finishing eighth in the rundown.

Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) came home ninth and posted his sixth win in the C2 category. With the result, Sofio wrapped up the 2005 Yokohama Tire C2 Cup championship in his rookie Atlantic season. Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) posted his fourth top-10 finish of the year in 10th position.

The Atlantics will be idle next weekend but the series returns to action August 12-14 at the Grand Prix of Denver.

KATHERINE LEGGE (#12 PKV Racing -- Polestar Racing Group): "This feels great. It has been a very good weekend for us. We were fast all weekend but for some reason we were not at the top of the charts during practice and qualifying. I feel bad for Tonis. It was very unfortunate that he could not race with us. (On her pass on Zwolsman) I just saw an opportunity and I took it. I am sorry that it was because of a mechanical problem, but it was good for me. (On her battle with David Martinez) He put a lot of pressure on me towards the end of the race, but I coped with that okay."

DAVID MARTINEZ (#7 Roshfrans/US Race Tronics -- US Race Tronics): "We raced in hard conditions today. It was almost impossible to pass so I pushed hard to try and put some pressure on the leaders, and I waited for mistakes. But they did very well and they did not make any mistakes. (On his season) We had a hard year because we did not have much testing and the team did not have any base for the set ups. This year we found something that works in street courses and next year will be better on the fast tracks. I still want to take a checkered flag before the end of the season."

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports): "Tonis had a very good start but in the first few laps I was pushing really hard for the lead. Then I had brake problems so I had to slow down my pace a little bit. After that, Tonis was out of the race and I felt comfortable leading, but I started to feel a gearbox problem and I was too slow to hold Katherine and David back. I was not lucky today but I am still able to finish on the podium. Tonis was much more unfortunate than me. (On the gearbox problem) I started to feel something was wrong two laps before Katherine passed me. I did not know if I could push more or not. I did not want to take the risk to damage too much my gearbox. So David passed me as well. But I feel lucky to be finish in the top three."


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Grant Ryley , Katherine Legge , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Phil Giebler , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Al Unser III