O Canada Home countrymen finish 1-2 in Toronto. TORONTO (July 6, 2002) -- On a picture perfect afternoon in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a), who hails from Burnaby, BC, Canada, continued a Canadian winning...
Home countrymen finish 1-2 in Toronto.
TORONTO (July 6, 2002) -- On a picture perfect afternoon in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a), who hails from Burnaby, BC, Canada, continued a Canadian winning streak on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit in Toronto that began with Alex Tagliani in 1998. Fellow countryman, Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings/Miller Genuine Draft/Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) who is from Gormley, Ontario, completed the Canadian sweep of the top two spots.
But the story of the race came on the Lap 6 restart. Two yellow flags had slowed the early portion of the event which set the stage for the highlight of the race. Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a), who started the race up front after winning his second $1000 Toyota Pole Award of the season earlier in the day and entered the race with a two point lead in the Championship over Valiante, led the opening laps. But on the lap six restart, Valiante, who was in third at the time, charged to the inside of Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) and Fogarty heading into Turn 1. Valiante was able to glue the car to the inside of the turn and completed the pass, but the battle was not over. Fogarty continued the fight with Valiante down the long straight heading into Turn 3. As the pair jockeyed for position, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) made contact with the rear of Fogarty's car sending Diaz airborne into the tire wall. The incident eliminated both of the Dorricott cars from the race.
"I have been getting good restarts all season and I knew that would be the place to make my move," said Valiante on the lap six pass. "Alex (Gurney) blocked me on the inside, but I knew he would have to come back to the outside to setup for the turn. There wasn't much room there, but I was able to hold it down. I saw Jon (Fogarty) and Luis (Diaz), tangle behind me and I was like, wow, I can't believe that is happening."
Valiante continued. "This is the race where David Rutledge won from the pole and took the lead in the Championship last year, so I'm happy to be able to do the same. We would like to look at this as a turning point for the rest of the season, but the truth of the matter is that this is an extremely competitive, talented field of drivers where any one of a dozen guys could win on any given weekend, and while we've been working hard and working smart, we've also been lucky."
"It was definitely a clean battle with Rocky," said hometown favorite, Macri. "It all depended on the traffic. He would pull ahead and then I would catch back up. He was real good on his brakes. I was trying to force a mistake out of him. Near the end of the race, I got back up close and was able to sneak by and hold him off to the end."
Valiante took the checkered flag over Macri by .909 seconds, but the battle was even closer than that. Valiante also won the $1000 WorldCom Fast Pace award, but only by 1/1000ths of a second over Macri. Valiante's lap of 1:06.549 seconds (94.938 mph) beat Martin Basso's 2001 race lap record of 1:07.059 seconds (94.216 mph). In fact, a total of eight drivers were under the 2001 record.
The win was the second of the season for Valiante and the second straight of Lynx Racing on temporary street circuits. The win coupled with Fogarty's misfortune allowed Valiante to regain the points lead for the second time this season. Valiante will now carry a 19-point lead in the Championship heading into next week's Round 8 race at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.
Macri's path to second was just as exciting as Valiante's path to the win. From the opening lap, Macri dueled with Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a). Moran Jr. passed Macri for fifth place early in the race and the pair battled for the remainder of the afternoon. Macri was finally able to get past Moran Jr. for second on the next to the last lap. For Macri, it was his third podium showing of the season and the finish moved him up to seventh place in the Championship. Moran Jr. has been silently posting good results and the second podium of the season has snuck the Atlantic veteran into third place in the Championship, 21 points behind the leader, Valiante.
"I am really happy with our results," said Moran Jr. "We had a tough weekend, but it finished well. It was a good race for us. It was a great battle with Macri and I tried very hard to keep my position, but I got into one of the turns a little hot while working around traffic. I'm really glad for a podium finish for Sigma Autosport and to get more points to keep us in the Championship battle."
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery/Autobytel/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) finished the race in fourth, followed by Dorricott's sole remaining entry, Alex Gurney, who rounded out the top five. The solid top five finish for Hunter-Reay continued his climb up in the Championship points. Hunter-Reay has moved up to fourth with a total of 71 points, 23 back of Valiante. Hunter-Reay's teammate, Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/Autobacs/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) came into the race just seven points behind Fogarty for the lead, but was collected in a first lap incident that brought out the first yellow of the race. Yasukawa failed to score any points and the finish dropped him to fifth in the Championship with 67 points, tying him with Gurney. Second through Ninth in the Championship points standings are only separated by 17 points heading into the Cleveland event.
The other yellow flag came out on the lap 3 restart. Sepp Koster (Michael Shank Racing/Blue Bay Golf Resort/Uitert/Respons Swift 014.a), who started the race from the inside of the second row was eliminated from the race after a hard contact incident with Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Royse/ Maizoro/Millenio Swift 014.a) that sent the Coronas' car over the top of Koster's car. Both drivers were uninjured in the incident, but both were out of the event.
The 19 point lead that Valiante will carry to Cleveland is the largest of the season, but he will have no time to celebrate his victory. The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is back in action this Friday as the teams prepare for Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland on Sunday, July 14th.
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", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. 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.