Toronto: Toyota preview

Valiante looks to defend title, Macri looks for first career win as 2003 Cart Toyota Atlantic Championship enters second half at Molson Indy Toronto INDIANAPOLIS (July 9, 2003) - "O Canada" has been on heavy rotation at the beginning and end of...

Valiante looks to defend title, Macri looks for first career win as 2003 Cart Toyota Atlantic Championship enters second half at Molson Indy Toronto

INDIANAPOLIS (July 9, 2003) - "O Canada" has been on heavy rotation at the beginning and end of each of the past four CART Toyota Atlantic Championship events at Toronto's Exhibition Place, as Canadian drivers have emerged victorious in every Toyota Atlantic event in Toronto since Alex Tagliani took the win in 1998.

Canadians Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) and Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) will be among the Canadians looking to fly the familiar red and white flag with the maple leaf on the top step of the podium for a fifth straight time this weekend as the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship makes its first of three visits north of the border for the Molson Indy Toronto on Saturday, July 12 (SPEED Channel, 4:30 p.m. ET).

Valiante became the fourth straight Canadian to win in front of his countrymen last year, taking the lead from eventual series champion Jon Fogarty on Lap 6 and holding off Macri to score one of his three wins in the 2002 season. Also included in the run of success for Canada at the tight street circuit on the shores of Lake Ontario were victories by David Rutledge in 2001, and Andrew Bordin in 2000. The series did not have an event in Toronto during the 1999 season.

Valiante comes into the weekend looking for two-in-a-row in Toronto, but has to beat a competitive field if he is to repeat as champion. One of those challengers figures to be Macri, who is still looking for his first career Toyota Atlantic race victory, and would love nothing more than for it to come at his "hometown" event. The Gormley, Ontario native has finished on the podium four times in six starts thus far in 2003, and if he can put it all together this weekend, he could finally earn that elusive first victory.

Every driver in the field will be looking to keep the bright yellow machine of A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) in their mirrors, as the rookie has been a dominating force through the first half of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Allmendinger has started from the pole three times this season, and has gone on to win each of those races including last weekend's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport, so the secret to success for the rest of the field might be to keep Allmendinger from putting his car on the inside of the front row in qualifying.

Allmendinger currently leads the Toyota Atlantic point standings by 15 markers over second place Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record), but the Scot is another of the hottest drivers in the series. Dalziel is the only driver to have finished on the podium in each of the past four races, a run that includes the first two race victories of his Toyota Atlantic career. He considers street courses his forte, which should serve as a reminder to the rest of the field that to win this race, they're probably going to have to beat Dalziel.

While he hasn't scored a victory yet in Toyota Atlantic competition, Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) has also run up-front for most of the season and got his career best result on the streets of Long Beach with a second place run after starting second in April. Justus battled at the front of the field in the early stages of last weekend's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k in Cleveland, before a run-in with Macri forced him out of the race and snapped his streak of consecutive top five finishes at five races. He will no doubt be looking to start a new streak this weekend.

One driver who has shown great speed over the past couple of races is third-year competitor Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports), and while he hasn't won yet this season, he remains a threat to win on any given weekend. Likewise, Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) had a hard luck first half of the season, but he ran near the front of the field in last year's Molson Indy Toronto before dropping out due to contact with teammate Fogarty, and he too should be considered among the favorites this weekend.

While Valiante and Macri rate among the favorites based on their performances last year at Toronto and through the first six races of this season, three more drivers from north of the border come into the weekend with an added incentive. Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation 2/MGD/Mexxsport/Momo) has visited the podium once before in Toyota Atlantic competition, and would love nothing more than to taste a little champagne again this weekend.

Montreal-based Starwood Team Jensen is coming off its best weekend of Toyota Atlantic competition, as drivers Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) and Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems) picked up career-best results with eighth and ninth place finishes, respectively, in the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k at Cleveland. Both are looking to carry that momentum into their home country this weekend.

Another driver looking to carry the momentum of a career-best result is Venezuelan Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource/LA Fitness/Diestra) after putting his car eighth on the starting grid and bringing home a sixth place finish. Likewise, American Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) had her best outing since finishing third in the season opener with a fifth place run in Cleveland, and returns to the site of her first professional open wheel race in North America this weekend. Last year, Patrick made her Barber Dodge Pro Series debut at Toronto's Exhibition Place and finished seventh.

Like Patrick, 17-year-old Kyle Krisiloff (#31 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) is also returning to familiar territory, as he made his Toyota Atlantic debut at Toronto last year. Krisiloff has finished in the top-seven in three of his past four starts and the bulk of the schedule from this point forward are tracks on which he has previous Toyota Atlantic experience.

The United States will also be represented this weekend by Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring), who snapped a streak of five consecutive top-seven finishes due to a crash on the opening lap last weekend in Cleveland, and rookie Bryan Sellers (#17 Lynx Racing/3Dimensional Services/Drive4USA), who returns to the series after sitting out last weekend.

History will be on display throughout the weekend at the Molson Indy Toronto as Canadian Bill Brack, the driver who won the first and second Atlantic championships in 1974 and '75 will be at the track along with his championship-winning STP Chevron B27. Brack will take a few laps at the head of the field prior to the start of Saturday's race as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.

This weekend's schedule for Toyota Atlantic calls for an hour long opening practice session beginning at 8:45 a.m. ET on Friday, July 11 and Friday's schedule concludes with a 30-minute first round qualifying session at 1:20 p.m. ET. Saturday's race day schedule sees the Toyota Atlantic machines on course for a 45-minute practice/qualifying session beginning at 9:00 a.m. and will be followed by Round 7 of the 12-race 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the Molson Indy Toronto, which takes the green flag at 4:00 p.m. The scheduled distance for the race is 35 laps (61.425 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.

SPEED Channel will feature television coverage of the event on a half-hour tape delay beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12. SPEED Channel will rebroadcast the event at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 13, and again at 1:00 p.m. ET on Monday, July 14.

CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP FAST FACTS
WHAT: Molson Indy Toronto
WHERE: Exhibition Place - Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
WHEN: Friday-Saturday, July 11-12.

INSTANT REPLAY:

Michael Valiante took advantage of a Lap 6 restart following a caution flag to move from third to first in Turn 1, passing Dorricott Racing teammates Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, and held on to claim the fourth consecutive victory for a Canadian in the 2002 Molson Indy Toronto. Jonathan Macri finished second, just 0.909 seconds back, with Rocky Moran Jr. in third. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fourth, and Gurney rounded out the top five. Shortly after losing the lead to Valiante, Fogarty and teammate Luis Diaz made contact in Turn 3, removing both cars from contention.

Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) of Gormley, Ontario will represent the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at the Molson Indy Toronto pre-event media luncheon. The event is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET near pit-out at the race track.

Championship Battle:

RuSPORT rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) leads the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship point standings on the strength of three poles and three wins, including taking the pole and the win at last weekend's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k at Cleveland. He leads second-year competitor Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) by 15 points. Dalziel has finished on the podium in each of the past four races, including his first and second career Toyota Atlantic victories from the pole at Milwaukee and Portland.

O Canada:

Canada will be well represented in the Molson Indy Toronto Toyota Atlantic event, as five drivers on the entry list hail from north of the border. Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) is the closest to Toronto as he was born and resides in nearby Gormley, Ontario. Defending race champion Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) calls Burnaby, B.C. home, and three Quebecois will also be in the field this weekend. Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation 2/MGD/Mexxsport/Momo) comes from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, while Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) and Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems) make their homes in Montreal. Starwood Team Jensen, which field entries for Jensen and Fayer, is the only Canadian-based team in the series as the team's shop is in Montreal.

History On Display:

As this is the 30th Anniversary season of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the driver who won the series' first and second championships along with his championship-winning car will be on hand throughout the weekend in Toronto. Bill Brack who won the 1974 and '75 Atlantic titles and has a total of eight career victories in Atlantic competition is a special guest of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship this weekend, and is bringing his STP-sponsored Chevron B27. Brack will be on-track during the parade laps prior to the race, and the car will be on display near the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship transporter throughout the weekend.

Returning To The Scene:

Team Rahal's Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) and Kyle Krisiloff #31 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) are returning to the site of their first CART-sanctioned events. Patrick made her North American professional racing debut at Toronto last year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, while Krisiloff participated in his first CART Toyota Atlantic Championship event at Exhibition Place in 2002. Patrick became the first woman to finish on the podium in the history of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship when she finished third in the 2003 season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, while Krisiloff became the youngest driver in series history to finish on the podium when he claimed second earlier this year in the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite.

Adding To History:

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is celebrating its 30th Anniversary throughout the 2003 season. The series has produced notable racing superstars such as Formula 1 stars Gilles Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg; Champ Car champions Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, and Jimmy Vasser; 1995 Champ Car champion and Indy 500 winner and 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, as well as current Champ Car World Series competitors Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy, Roberto Moreno, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Rodolfo Lavin.

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Kyle Krisiloff , Luis Diaz , Gilles Villeneuve , Ryan Hunter-Reay , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Garcia , Keke Rosberg , Rodolfo Lavin , Alex Figge , Eric Jensen , Andrew Bordin , Aaron Justus , Bryan Sellers , Philip Fayer , Rocky Moran , Danica Patrick