This Side of the Atlantic News and notes from around the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Highland Park, Ill. (May 21, 2002) ^Ã– All is quiet on the Atlantic front, but a storm is building on the horizon as the sound of Toyota 4A-GE engines ...
This Side of the Atlantic
News and notes from around the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship
Highland Park, Ill. (May 21, 2002) ^Ö All is quiet on the Atlantic front, but a storm is building on the horizon as the sound of Toyota 4A-GE engines begin to echo across North America. It has been nearly five weeks since the checkered flag dropped at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the teams are anxious to get back to racing. Beginning at the Milwaukee Mile in early June, the Atlantic Championship will be in action during six of the following seven weeks. By the time the teams get their next real break in mid-July, they will long for the slow days at the shop and low key test at various tracks around the country.
-HAND INJURED IN MILWAUKEE TEST-
One of the pre-season favorites to win the 2002 Championship will most likely miss the remainder of the season after being injured in a testing crash last week at the Milwaukee Mile. Championship contender, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) suffered injuries to his back after losing control of his car in turn 4 during the two-day test session.
"Joey sustained compression fractures of the T-11, 12 and L-1 vertebrae in the middle of his back," said Dr. Terry Trammell, CART's Chief Orthopedic Consultant, after examining Hand today at Ortho Indy Medical Center in Indianapolis. "He'll need to be in a brace for three months and out of the car for that length of time. He also has a fractured left knee-cap that will be treated with a brace."
"We're committed to Joey 100 percent," said Dede Rogers, DSTP Motorsports team owner. "He has a great future ahead with us, so we want to be sure that he takes the time to heal properly and is as healthy as possible before getting back into the car."
DSTP^Òs plans for the remainder of the season have yet to be announced.
The schedule in June will include four events, booked by the only visits to oval tracks this season. While the tracks at Milwaukee (1.032-Mile Oval) and Chicago (1.029-Mile Oval) look and seem similar, success on one oval does not translate to the other. The Milwaukee Mile, which has hosted races for the past 98 years is one of America^Òs oldest race courses rich in tradition. On the other side is the Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Illinois, which hosted its first race in 1999.
Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a), who drove for Worldspeed Motorsports last year, is the perfect example of just how different the two tracks are. After winning the pole last year in Milwaukee and going on to finish a strong second in the race behind 2001 Atlantic Champion, Hoover Orsi, Ryley struggled at Chicago qualifying 11th and placing eighth in the race, a lap down to the leader.
^ÓMilwaukee and Chicago represent the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of oval tracks,^Ô said Ryley who finished fourth at Long Beach and stands 7th in the Championship with 16 points. ^ÓMilwaukee is very wide, with short straights and long corners. It has very little banking and you can run cars on several different lines. It^Òs more ^Ñpassing-friendly,^Ò and when the car is right, you can run each lap with the gas pedal flat on the floor. It^Òs a track that I like a lot, and a format that I think makes for better racing. Chicago is the opposite. Long straights and short turns, lots of banking, one groove and even the best car has to lift going into the turns. You might even find yourself braking and downshifting. They offer different challenges, and both demand that you be fast right off the trailer, with a good idea of where you^Òre going with the setup or you^Òll be playing catch-up all weekend.^Ô
On May 16th and 17th, teams were not resting and catching the latest Star Wars flick. They were burning the Yokohama rubber at the Milwaukee Mile in preparation for their two oval races this season. Just because ovals only make up 1/6th of the 2002 schedule, teams can not afford to look past these two races.
Hylton Motorsport^Òs Hoover Orsi, captured the 2001 Atlantic Championship, in large part, with his success on the three oval races that season. Orsi won the Championship by 56 points over Lynx Racing^Òs David Rutledge. On the ovals, Orsi scored 59 points with wins at Milwaukee and Chicago and a runner-up finish at Nazareth. While Rutledge did score a podium finish at Milwaukee last year, problems at Chicago and Nazareth allowed him to only secure 21 points in the three events. The 38 point difference on the ovals during first 2/3rds of the schedule, played a huge role in Orsi clinching the 2001 Championship with two races remaining in the season.
Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) holds a slim three point lead over Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) early in the 2002 Championship heading into Milwaukee.
Dorricott Racing, DSTP Motorsports, Hylton Motorsports, Lynx Racing, Michael Shank Racing, Worldspeed Motorsports, Scuadra Fortia, Sigma Autorsport, and Transnet Racing were all at Milwaukee this week trying to skim off those precious tenths of a second before they return to the same spot to race in less than two weeks.
Milwaukee will mark the first oval race for several Atlantic drivers. Mexico^Òs Eduardo Figueroa (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa Standox Maizoro Swift 014.a) and Argentina^Òs Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa Standox Maizoro Swift 014.a) are getting their first taste of an American oval this week in Milwaukee. Scotland^Òs Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a) joins the Scuadra Fortia pair getting his feet wet in Milwaukee.
-OTHER TESTING NOTES-
Several teams also tested at the Portland International Raceway last month in preparations for the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship^Òs first visit to the track on June 15th. Like the event in Monterrey, Mexico, Dorricott Racing has a head start at the venue via their years of competition at the track during their tenure with the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. In fact, Dorricott Racing has not lost on the track since 1998 winning the past three years in Portland with drivers: Oriol Servia in 1999, Jason Bright in 2000, and Damien Faulkner in 2001.
Dorricott Racing looks to be well on the way to gaining its fourth straight win at the track being fastest in the two-day test followed closely by Hylton Motorsports.
BBGP Racing has been busy as well with a test at Phoenix International Raceway on the oval and road course. Stephan C. Roy (BBGP Racing/Momo Swift 014.a) was solid last year on ovals driving for P-1 Racing scoring his first career podium finish at Chicago along with a fifth place showing at Nazareth. Puerto Rico^Òs Victor Gonzalez Jr., who raced in the second BBGP car at Long Beach, will not be in the seat for the team in Milwaukee. BBGP Racing^Òs owner, John Brooks, is still working on a deal to get Gonzalez Jr. back in the seat for the races at Laguna Seca and Portland, but remarked that the seat is still open at this point.
Frank Dancs (Condor Motorsports/Ariba Swift 014.a) also tested at Phoenix along with Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Miller Genuine Draft Swift 014.a) and David Cutler (P-1 Racing/AMD Dell Broadcom Microsoft Swift 014.a). Nicolas Rondet (Condor Motorsports/Barber Pro Series Career Enhancement Award Swift 008.a) was on hand for the test, but did not participate while his car was being equipped with the new 2002 specification Swift SG3 transmission.
-TAG THE TEACHER-
Although many of the Atlantic drivers, who will be competing at Milwaukee have raced on the track before and others that are similar, it never hurts to hear a few words of advice from somebody who climbed the CART Ladder System before you. CART Fedex Championship Series driver, Alex Tagliani will speak to the Atlantic drivers in Milwaukee on Thursday before they take to the track for their first test session that same day.
Tagliani, who drives the Team Players Ltd./Indeck Ford Reynard in the CART Fedex Championship Series accumulated impressive statistics in his Atlantic career that would make any young Atlantic driver pay attention to what he had to say. During his Atlantic years from 1996 to 1999, Tagliani logged 2585 miles in 49 starts. During his four years in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, Tagliani also captured six wins, eight poles, and 16 podium finishes.
^ÓAs someone who came up through the Atlantic series, I enjoy having the opportunity to retrace my racing roots and speak to the drivers who are in the process of making their way up the ladder,^Ô said a grateful Tagliani. ^ÓIt^Òs a way of giving something back to the series that played a big role in my development as a driver. I see that this year there are three Canadian drivers in the Atlantic series who are in the same position I was a few years ago, and I want to do anything I can to help them and the other Atlantic drivers on their career path.^Ô
Tagliani continued on giving back to CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. ^ÓI remember when I was competing in the Atlantic series, David Empringham (1993 & 1994 Atlantic Champion) from Indy Lights came one day and talked to us about racing on an oval. He came just before we were going to race on the Nazareth oval. His remarks were very helpful and he made a favorable impression on us that day. One of the things he said was ^ÑYou can^Òt do more than what the car can do.^Ò Those words have stayed with me over the years. My advice would be along those same lines: if the car can^Òt do it, don^Òt even try because you^Òre fighting a losing battle.^Ô
^ÓAs for racing on the Milwaukee oval, I was fortunate to make it to the podium there in the Atlantic race in 1998, but it^Òs a tough track to drive on. You have to have a different attitude driving on ovals than on a road course. It^Òs not just a case of having patience, you need a lot of concentration. You also have to put your pride aside and make sure you don^Òt try to do more than the car is capable of doing. You have to constantly remind yourself to stay within your limits.^Ô
^ÓI^Òm not going there to tell the Atlantic drivers how to drive, because all of them are very capable of doing that. And I^Òm not there to teach them anything about driving on ovals. What I can and will do is pass along some key hints about running on ovals, based on my own experience since I^Òve been in the CART series. I don^Òt think anyone ever masters the ovals but I^Òve been fortunate to have some real good races the last few times on oval tracks, such as in Japan last month and in Fontana on the superspeedway at the end of last season.^Ô
Lynx Racing owners, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, will be the guest of honor at this year^Òs La Gala Seca charity dinner and auction. The event takes place on Friday evening of the Grand Prix of Monterey race weekend. Over the last nine years, La Gala Seca has generated close to half a million dollars in proceeds that have benefited women^Òs and children^Òs charities throughout the Monterey Peninsula. As always, proceeds from this year^Òs event will again benefit local charities.
Haas and Doty have been fixtures in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship for the past 12 years with drivers such as Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron, Buddy Rice, Memo Gidley, and David Rutledge taking control of Lynx Racing^Òs Atlantic machines. This year, the team is carrying on the tradition of talented drivers with Canadian driver, Michael Valiante and American, Grant Ryley.
^ÓThe contributions that Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty have made to auto racing are immeasurable,^Ô said Vicki O^ÒConnor, President & Chief Executive Officer, Toyota Atlantic Championship. ^ÓOver the past 12 years, Peggy and Jackie have dedicated themselves to the development of the young drivers that have been a part of Lynx Racing and the many successes of these drivers speaks volumes for their work. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Lynx Racing during this time and the honor being bestowed on them is very well deserved.^Ô
No, it^Òs not a rerun on the movie channel of the 1983 hit starring Dan Aykroid and Eddie Murphy, but part two starring Lynx Racing^Òs Michael Valiante and team manager, Steve Cameron. The pair recently took part in the NAKA West Coast ^ÓStars of Tomorrow^Ô event at Sears Point International Raceway^Òs karting track. Unlike Atlantic race weekends where Valiante is flying around the track in his Toyota powered Swift 014.a while Cameron leads the efforts to make the car go faster, the karting event had the pair trade places for the weekend.
Before Vancouver^Òs Michael Valiante showed up in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the 22-year old driver had racked up numerous karting Championships and awards from 1996 to 1998 including the prestigious ELF Constructor^Òs Championship two times. Also, before Cameron started as the backbone of Lynx Racing, the New Zealand born driver spent years in the driver^Òs seat competing in the Atlantic Championship. In 1992, Cameron narrowly missed winning the Championship finishing second, five points behind Chris Smith. Cameron placed on the podium eight times in 14 starts during that season.
^ÓI^Òm still a racer at heart, even though more of my time is spent behind a desk and on the phone these days,^Ô said Cameron. ^ÓBut competing in these races is a good way for me to keep sharp for when I test the Lynx Atlantic car ^Ö and it^Òs the best way to evaluate the next generation of talent coming up the ladder. I don^Òt really expect to be able to beat these kids, but I^Òm going to give it my best shot and make them work for it. And hey, after all these years of helping young drivers make it to the top, I^Òd truly love to get a shot at testing a Champ Car.^Ô
In the event, Valiante engineered the kart that Cameron drove and the pair thinks the experience will pay dividends for the remainder of the 2002 Atlantic season. ^ÓTrading places with Michael for a weekend was the most educational experience either of us could have had,^Ô said Cameron. ^ÓHe engineered my kart during the Stars of Tomorrow weekend, and I found myself trying to explain to someone who knows a lot more about karts than me how it was handling. Usually, I^Òm the one who knows more about how an Atlantic car behaves and he^Òs trying to communicate with me. I think the experience opened up new channels of communication, a new level of understanding, between us that will serve the team well during the season. It^Òs an experience I^Òd recommend to any driver and his engineer.^Ô
-SHANK FULLY SWIFTED-
The three car 2002 Atlantic effort for Michael Shank Racing finally got all their cars upgraded to the new Swift 014.a. Ryan Dalziel held the best finish in the first two races of any drivers in the old Swift 008.a chassis. Dalziel finished second in Monterrey, Mexico behind current Championship points leader, Jon Fogarty. Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a) has been in the new car right from the start, but for Dalziel and fellow rookie, Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort Utert Respons Swift 014.a), the Milwaukee test was their first crack at the new Swift 014.a.
"I'm absolutely over the moon about the new car,^Ô said a pleased Dalziel. ^ÓI wasn't going to get my hopes up too much because I didn't want the disappointment of it not being as quick as I expected, but I knew in the first ten minutes of driving the car that it was better. It's not a huge difference, but it's enough that we should be competitive with everyone else for the rest of the season and have the chance to get some wins under our belt."
"The new car feels very good to me and it definitely responds better to changes than the old one,^Ô commented Koster on the new car. ^ÓSo I'm excited to finally have it. For me, it's almost going to be like starting the second half of the season. And Michael Shank Racing has had a pretty good set-up for Milwaukee the past few years, so I'm cautiously optimistic that we can do well there."
Koster has reason to be excited heading to Milwaukee in less than two weeks. Argentina^Òs Martin Basso won the Milwaukee event in 2000. 2001 was not as friendly to Michael Shank Racing drivers, but the cars were still fast. A practice crash practically destroyed Basso^Òs car last year relegating him to start the race in the back of the field with a patched up car. Lavin qualified fourth before being swept up in an early race incident in turn 2. The team and drivers know this is one of their best tracks and are looking for strong finishes when the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship returns to the Milwaukee Mile on June 2.
-ATLANTIC PRESENCE AT INDY-
Over 25% of the field starting in the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 this weekend passed through the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. A total of nine former Atlantic drivers will take the green flag in what is called the ^ÓThe Greatest Spectacle in Racing^Ô.
Leading the Atlantic class is Felipe Giaffone, who competed in the Atlantic Championship in 1995. Giaffone, who will start the 500 on the inside of row 2, placed sixth in the 1995 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship which was won by Richie Hearn. Lining up behind Giaffone on the next row will be 1999 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Rookie of the Year, Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish Jr., the defending IRL Champion, finished seventh in the 1999 Championship earning one win which came at the Chicago Motor Speedway.
The rest of the Atlantic graduates include: 1991 Atlantic Championship runner-up, Jimmy Vasser (starting 19th), 1983 Champion, Michael Andretti (starting 25th), 1997 Atlantic Champion, Alex Barron (starting 26th), 1990 Pacific Division Champion, Mark Dismore (starting 33rd), Paul Tracy (starting 29th), Greg Ray (starting 31st), and Shigeaki Hittori (starting 27th).
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.