This Side of the Atlantic News and notes from around the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Highland Park, Ill. (March 29, 2002) -- The 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship got off to a soggy start over two weeks ago in Monterrey, Mexico, with...
This Side of the Atlantic
News and notes from around the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship
Highland Park, Ill. (March 29, 2002) -- The 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship got off to a soggy start over two weeks ago in Monterrey, Mexico, with Dorricott Racing's Jon Fogarty sliding to victory in Round 1 of the new season. During the month off, teams and drivers have been preparing for what appears to be a shootout for the checkered flag at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that will take place on Sunday, April 14th, 2002. The race at Long Beach will see even more new teams and drivers enter the fray in one of the most prestigious open-wheeled development series in the world.
-QUEBEC DRIVER RETURNS-
After earning three top five finishes last year, including his first podium visit which came at Chicago, Stephan C. Roy (Brooks Associates Racing/Port-A-Cool Swift 008.a) will return to Atlantic racing at Long Beach. Roy's return will fill a void as he is the only Atlantic driver that hails from the Canadian Province of Quebec. With upcoming races in Trois-Rivieres (Roy's home town) and Montreal, the return of the Quebec driver will have a positive impact for the series and to the local Atlantic fan base in the region.
"I am very happy to be back on the track in 2002," explains Roy. "I was afraid to miss the season but I am definitely pleased to be back with the people of the Brooks/Port-A-Cool team with whom I was associated with in 2000 for my first Atlantic season."
After driving races last year with P-1 Racing, Duesenberg Brothers Racing, and Hylton Motorsports, Roy will join up with John Brooks, owner of Brooks Associates Racing, for nine of the remaining ten events in the 2002 season. Roy hopes to find the additional funding to run the season finale in Denver.
Roy will team with the first driver from Puerto Rico to compete in Atlantic competition. Victor Gonzalez Jr. (Brooks Associates Racing/www.gopuertorico.com Swift 014.a), with support from gotopuertorico.com, will make his debut on the streets of Long Beach. Gonzalez Jr. got his first experience in the car last October when he tested with Brooks at Buttonwillow Speedway. Now Gonzalez Jr. will get the chance to race against some of the best up and coming drivers in the world.
-HYLTON'S BDPS 1-2 PUNCH-
While in Monterrey, Mexico, Hylton Motorsports let the cat out of the bag on who would join Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a) on the 2001 defending championship team. That cat was Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs Ueno Clinic Pacific Creative Swift 008.a), who will begin his Atlantic career close to home. The Los Angeles born driver, along with Hunter-Reay, were both top drivers last year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series with Yasukawa finishing fourth in the Championship and Hunter-Reay fifth.
¨It is time for Hylton to step-up to a two car team and I am pleased Roger is a part of that. He is a proven front-runner and a terrific representative for our team and our sport.¨ Hylton continued, "Roger and his teammate Ryan (Hunter-Reay) have some history racing against each other in the Barber Dodge Pro Series; so I am sure they will work well together and make a very strong combination."
Yasukawa will pilot the #9 entry for Hylton which Brazil's Hoover Orsi carried to the 2001 Championship. Hunter-Reay will remain in the defending championship team's designated car #1.
-ALSO DEBUTING AT LONG BEACH-
In addition to Roy, Gonzalez Jr., and Yasukawa, more drivers will get their season underway at Long Beach after missing the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico. DeWayne Cassel (JPT Motorsports/Tyco ADT Swift 014.a) will attempt to be the Atlantic Championship's first African- American driver to compete in the series since Willy T. Ribbs raced sparingly in the 1980s. California's Steve Romak (Romak Iron Works/Auto Spa Swift 008.a) will make his first Atlantic start along with fellow California driver, Scott Lampkin (Crossover Motorsports/Dynapack Chassis Dynamometers Swift 008.a).
Finally, Bob Siska (RJS Motorsports Swift 008.a) will return to action at Long Beach. The Atlantic veteran has been racing in the series since 1996 making himself and David Cutler (P-1 Racing/AMD Dell Broadcom Microsoft Swift 014.a) the senior members of the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.
When Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) won the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico, he set himself up for a tough challenge that many talented drivers before him could not complete. Since the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship became a unified series in 1991, no driver has ever won the season opening race and continued on to win the Championship in the same year.
Mark Dismore won the season opening race at Long Beach in 1990 and went on to win the Pacific Division of the series while Brian Till captured the Atlantic Division title. Drivers who have won the season opening event, but failed to cash in on the Championship include David Rutledge, Dan Wheldon, Alex Tagliani, Memo Gidley, Anthony Lazzaro, Tony Ave, Patrick Carpentier, Greg Ray, Stuart Crow, Russell Spence, and Jimmy Vasser.
In addition to that, Buddy Rice is the only driver since the Atlantic became a national series in 1991 to win the race at Long Beach and the Championship in the same year. Rice captured the 2000 Championship while driving for DSTP Motorsports.
A large contingent of Atlantic teams took the opportunity to join Chuck West, owner of Worldspeed Motorsports, in a two day test on March 27th and 28th at Firebird International Raceway outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The traditional early season test, which usually falls before the first race of the year, came in the middle of the long break between Monterrey, Mexico and the prestigious race at Long Beach.
West, who organizes the yearly test, invites other teams to join him in a final push to get ready for the event at Long Beach. Joining West and his driver, Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Redline Glycomax Ironclad Swift 014.a) were Dorricott Racing's three cars with Luiz Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a), Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) and points leader, Jon Fogarty. Hylton Motorsports took part in the test for the first time this season as a two car team with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Roger Yasukawa along with Brooks Associates Racing's tandem of Stephan C. Roy and Victor Gonzalez Jr. Although they are not starting their season at Long Beach, Sierra-Sierra Racing with Mark Devilles (Sierra-Sierra Racing Swift 014.a) was on hand to test along with JPT Motorsport with DeWayne Cassel.
The test got additional support with representatives from Swift Engineering, TRD, along with Yokohama Tire on hand to supply the teams with the tires for the two-day test.
Scuadra Fortia and their two drivers, Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa Standox Maizoro Swift 014.a) and Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa Standox Maizoro Swift 014.a) tested at Buttonwillow Speedway in California during the same time period.
-LOOKING AHEAD TO LONG BEACH-
The results from the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico make it difficult to gauge where everybody stands heading into Long Beach. Monterrey's new venue, coupled with a slick track that caught most teams off guard, will be a far cry from what teams are looking at on the streets of Long Beach. The track conditions in Monterrey were complicated even more when the skies over the area cut loose with a torrential downpour right before the race. This indicates the only thing the teams can take with them from Mexico to Long Beach is their equipment and points earned.
Of the returning Atlantic drivers, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) should be the one to beat when the cars take to the track on Friday, April 12th. Last year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was Hand's first race in an Atlantic car and the California rookie driver led the first five laps of the race before succumbing to Atlantic veteran drivers, David Rutledge and Hoover Orsi. Hand ended up third in his first Atlantic race and on his first visit to the circuit at Long Beach.
"Long Beach is the race that everybody wants to win, and I want to win it bad," said Hand. "Long Beach is a true street race and the track suits my style. It's a kart racer's track -- very tight, and not a lot of room for error. Most importantly, you really have to hustle the car, go over the curbs, and let it out right to the wall to lay down a fast lap. It's exactly the type of place I grew up racing on. This is also the first time I'll be racing on a track that I've raced an Atlantic car at before, which should play in our favor. I've really been waiting for this one since last year and we're looking forward to a great weekend in Long Beach."
In fact, Hand showed a talent for learning new tracks quickly during the 2001 Championship and even more so, temporary street circuits, which usually are not race ready until the very first practice session of the weekend. Hand enters Long Beach with a two race win streak on temporary street circuits dating back to last year. Hand won races on the streets of Vancouver and Houston last season and now heads to Long Beach with knowledge of Long Beach's 1.968-mile layout this time around.
Dorricott Racing should be strong in Long Beach as well, although they won't have extra experience and knowledge of the track that they had in Monterrey. The Dorricott team ran for many years at Long Beach while competing in the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship, so they will be on equal footing with veteran Atlantic teams for this event.
Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) and Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) should be a factor as well. Like Joey Hand, Valiante debuted at Long Beach last year as well and found instant success placing fourth while driving for Lynx. Ryley qualified fifth last year for the race while driving for Worldspeed Motorsports, but a gearbox problem early in the event forced him to retire just two laps into the race.
Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 008.a) may be spotted in the hours before the Long Beach race doing a rain dance. Dalziel tore through the field from his 10th place starting spot during the rain soaked race in Monterrey, Mexico, on his way to a close runner-up finish behind Jon Fogarty. Dalziel, who hails from Lanarkshire, Scotland, found himself right at home racing in the rain at Monterrey while others struggled with the slippery conditions. Dalziel's teammates, Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a) and Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort Utert Respons Swift 008a.) will try to improve on their 7th and 13th place showings in the season opener.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", which features a $1,000,000 year-end points fund and $100,000 race purses. It is also 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, Alex Tagliani as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.
For more information on the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, visit www.toyotaatlantic.com.