THE CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP Round 8, Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres August 3-5, 2001, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada Event: Round 8 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on 1.521-mile Trois-Rivieres street ...
THE CART TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 8, Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres
August 3-5, 2001, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada
Event: Round 8 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on 1.521-mile Trois-Rivieres street circuit, as the Sunday feature race at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. Sunday's race will mark the 26th time since 1974, the Atlantic series has competed on the streets at this venue.
Race Series: The CART-sanctioned Toyota Atlantic Championship is a key rung on CART's "Ladder System", and is 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, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpenter, Alex Tagliane, and Memo Gidley, former Champ Car stars Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.
Atlantic Schedule at Trois-Rivieres:
Friday, August 3
Practice 9:40 a.m. -- 10:10 a.m. 12:40 p.m. -- 1:20 p.m.
Saturday, August 4:
Practice 10:00 a.m. -- 10:30 a.m.
Qualifying 1:30 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 5:
Warm-up 8:00 a.m. -- 8:20 a.m.
RACE 1:40 p.m. -- 2:40 p.m.
(45 laps/68.43 miles)
Race: David Rutledge (Lynx Racing/The Keg Steakhouse Swift) lost his Championship points Preview lead last week in Chicago to Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) for the third time this season. The two have swapped the lead an amazing five times so far; and there is no reason to believe it won't happen a few more times before the season ends at Laguna Seca.
Both drivers have relied on their strengths this season to elevate them to the top of the Championship standings. Orsi currently leads the fight with 112 points, 17 ahead of Rutledge who stands with 95 points. Orsi has built his lead with wins at Milwaukee, Cleveland, and last week at Chicago. The Brazilian driver also has placed second in three other races. His only contradiction to the top-2 spot finishes came in Montreal, where he exited the race with a broken gearbox.
"Trois-Rivieres is going to be a very important race for us and I'm really excited to go up there again," said Orsi. "Last year, I did not do so well up there; we just had all kinds of problems, so I'm really looking forward to going back and changing my image. I do love it there. With all the fans screaming, it is like being at an amusement park. That really makes it a special race."
Rutledge shares the same sentiments with Orsi. "I think Trois-Rivieres is a great race, a really unique event for us. The fans there really know their Atlantic racing so that makes it one of my favorite races. The course is also one of my favorites. It is very challenging to drive, so it puts more of the race into the driver's hands."
After finishing 12th in Chicago on what had to be one of the toughest race weekends in his career, Rutledge is ready to get to Trois-Rivieres. "I'm ready to move on and have forgotten about Chicago already. We just could not figure out how to get the car around that track quickly. We are ready for this run of road courses races with the success we have had thus far."
Rutledge has almost been unbeatable on the road courses all season. The only win that has eluded him on road or temporary street courses came at Cleveland where rain played havoc with teams and drivers. Otherwise, Rutledge has won all the rest from the pole including Long Beach, Montreal, and Toronto. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native will try to win his third Canadian race in a row this weekend; and will attempt the sweep of Canadian events a month later in his hometown. Ovals have been the Lynx Racing team's achilles heel, but the final five races of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on road/temporary street courses, Lynx Racing's stronghold thus far.
Orsi ran the streets of Trois-Rivieres during his rookie season last year, but failed to finish the race with a 21st place showing. Rutledge has competed here three times but was unable to place better than 13th, although he was competing for a podium finish late in last year's race before running into problems that dropped him to the 13th spot.
After scoring his first career podium last week in Chicago, Stephan C. Roy (P-1 Racing/Playstation 2 Momo Swift) is returning to his hometown with a huge boost in confidence. Winning here would be a dream come true for the second year driver from Trois-Rivieres. Roy is just one point away from sitting in the top five spots in the Championship with a total of 47 points. Roy will be running his second race in his hometown with a 12th place showing last year in his rookie season.
"Of course it is always special to come here," quoted Roy. "It is just a special race on its own, but even more so since it is in my hometown. I use to come to this race when I was little and always dreamed of getting a chance to race here. Now that I have realized the dream, it just makes it that more special. I'll have family, friends and sponsors at this race so it is going to be a very busy week, but this is what I have worked so hard for. I just can't wait."
Roy's teammate, Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) is the only driver other than Orsi and Rutledge to post a win this season. Ave won the Round 2 event on the oval in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, putting him in the thick of the Championship hunt. Ave failed to score points in Rounds 5 and 6, allowing the front running pair of Orsi and Rutledge to slip ahead in the points chase. A strong runner-up finish last week in Chicago has kept Ave within striking distance.
"I did not get to run in the Atlantic race here in 1999 for various reasons, but I did do very well driving for P-1 Racing here in 1993 running in the top-5 all weekend," said Ave. "I have run this track in other series too, so I feel comfortable that we can do well this weekend. I really like racing at Trois-Rivieres because of the fans and the track. If you can do well on that track, you feel like you have accomplished something."
Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) is still trying to make his way out of the early season hole, but three straight top five finishes have put the team within earshot of the leaders. Basso knows the chase is an uphill climb; but a few wins or podiums, coupled with some trouble for the front runners, and he will be right on the rear wing of the leaders in the Championship. Even with some of the difficulties the Argentine driver has had, Basso is the only CART Toyota Atlantic driver to complete every lap so far this season. Basso finished fourth last year making him the driver with the best finish at Trois-Rivieres to be entered into the 2001 show.
Basso is fourth place in points with a total of 61, 8 points behind Ave who stands in third. First year driver, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) is in fifth with 48 points.
Hand leads the Rookie of Year battle with a narrow five point lead of fellow first year Atlantic drivers, Grant Ryley (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northwest Speedwerx Swift) and Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift). Just four points back of Ryley and Macri is Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Swift). All four of the rookies have had strong showings during the course of the season. Hand nearly won on the rain soaked track in Cleveland in an exciting final lap duel with Hoover Orsi. Ryley won a pole in Milwaukee where he went on to finish second to Orsi in that race and later scoring a podium in Toronto. Lavin posted his first podium finish of his career at Nazareth. Macri has been knocking on the podium door on several occasions and has been very consistent, completing all but one of the laps run thus far this season.
Even though Lavin and Macri are rookies in the Atlantic Championship, both drivers have competed at Trois-Rivieres in other racing series. Lavin ran here with the Dayton Indy Lights Championship in 1996 and 1997, while Macri raced here while competing in the Canadian Formula Ford 1600 Championship.
Rocky Moran Jr. (Cobb Racing Swift) is coming off his best qualifying effort of his career last week in Chicago, placing third for the start of the race. Since joining Cobb Racing at mid-season, Moran has begun to show the form that got him voted on the inaugural CART Toyota Atlantic All-Star team last year. Moran was fast in Toronto in his first race with Cobb Racing, and along with his teammate, T.J. Bell (Cobb Racing Swift), could be a threat to sneak up and steal a win.
"I'm really excited for this race," said Moran. "We have a really good car and we ran very well at Toronto; so I'm pretty pumped up to get this weekend going. Trois-Rivieres, along with Long Beach, are my biggest races. We are the big show up there and the fans are so in to the Atlantic series."
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will see a few new drivers enter into the Championship along with some making a change. Marc-Antoine Camirand (Duesenberg Brothers Racing/Western Union First Data Swift) will take over the seat vacated by Charles Hall. Hall is looking into other opportunities for the race this weekend. Camirand, who hails from St. Leonard D'Aston, Quebec, is competing in his first race of the season after running in his Atlantic debut last year in Trois-Rivieres with Worldspeed Motorsports. Camirand finished 10th last year after starting the race in 13th. David Wieringa (Hollander Racing Swift) will make his debut at Trois-Rivieres as well and do so with some momentum on his side. Wieringa scored a fourth place finish last week in Chicago in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Wieringa is the son of former Atlantic driver and now CART Team Owner of Sigma Autosport, Tom Wieringa.
Guy Cosmo (Duesenberg Brothers Racing/Western Union First Data Swift) will be driving in a second car fielded by Duesenberg after running the Long Beach and Montreal races with Worldspeed Motorsports. Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing/Copart Auto Auctions Swift) will run his fourth race of the season as part of his six-race schedule. Valiante finished second in Montreal and fourth at Long Beach.
Atlantic The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Trois-Rivieres 25 times, dating History at back to the 1974 season. The previous Atlantic winners at Trois-Rivieres were: Tom Trois-Rivieres Klausler (1974), Vittorio Brambilla (1975), Gilles Villeneuve (1976), Price Cobb (1977, 1980), Bill Brack (1978), Howdy Holmes (1979), Jacques Villeneuve (1981, 1989, 1991), Roberto Moreno (1982), Michael Andretti (1983), Dan Marvin (1985), Brian Till (1990), Chris Smith (1992), David Empringham (1993-1995), Richie Hearn (1995), Patrick Carpentier (1996, 1996), Alexandre Tagliani (1997, 1998), Anthony Lazzaro (1999), and Buddy Rice (2000).
Last Year at Andrew Bordin had closed Buddy Rice's Championship points lead to 7 points after Trois-Rivieres winning the previous race in Toronto. Fate turned on Bordin in Trois-Rivieres and subsequently took him out of the Championship fight, leaving Rice to battle with Bordin's teammate, Daniel Wheldon for the season ending trophy.
Rice started from the pole after setting a track record the previous day with a time of 1:00.804 seconds (90.063 seconds), but Bordin was along side him for the drop of the green flag.
Bordin grabbed the early lead and quickly opened up the gap on Rice and Wheldon to over five seconds. On lap 14, Bordin caught a lapped car that was experiencing handling problems and the two made contact while Bordin was trying to pass. The damage to Bordin's car forced him to pit for repairs and took away any hope of gaining points at Trois-Rivieres, much less a win.
Although a few caution flags kept the race close, there was no match for Rice who went on to win the race by 4.033 seconds over Wheldon, followed by Alex Gurney, Martin Basso and Rocky Moran Jr. David Rutledge was running fourth the final lap but an exit into the runoff in turn six dropped him to a 13th place finish.
Television ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Sunday's Round 8 race from Trois Broadcasts Rivieres on Saturday, August 11, at 5:00 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on Tuesday, August 14, at 7:00 p.m. in the EAST, ONTARIO and WEST time zones, and at 8:00 p.m. in the PACIFIC zone. CTV repeat dates are: EAST, Thursday, August 16, 1:30 p.m., PACIFIC, Friday, August 17, 3:00 p.m., WEST, Thursday, August 16, 3:00 p.m., and ONTARIO, no repeat date. ESPN2 will replay the race on Tuesday, August 14, at 4:00 a.m. EST
Next Race The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship continues with Round 9 on Sunday, August 19, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The series continues two weeks later with its final stop in Canada at the Molson Indy Vancouver, in Vancouver, British Columbia.