GRAND PRIX PLAYER'S DE TROIS-RIVIERES July 31 - Aug. 2, 1998 THE EVENT: The third of four Player's Challenge events held in Canada, and Round 8 of the 13-event KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, held on the 1.5207-mile temporary street circuit,...
GRAND PRIX PLAYER'S DE TROIS-RIVIERES July 31 - Aug. 2, 1998
THE EVENT: The third of four Player's Challenge events held in Canada, and Round 8 of the 13-event KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, held on the 1.5207-mile temporary street circuit, as the featured race at the Grand Prix Player's de Trois-Rivieres.
THE SERIES: The $1.34 million KOOL /Toyota Atlantic Championship is the richest open-wheel development series in North America, noted for its long history of graduating its stars directly into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic series are CART stars Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Jimmy Vasser, Richie Hearn, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron, as well as 1997 FIA Formula One Champion, Jacques Villeneuve.
SCHEDULE: Friday, July 31: Practice 10:10 a.m.- 10:40 a.m. Qualifying 1:45 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1: Practice 10:10 a.m. - 10:40 a.m. Qualifying 1:45 p.m.- 2:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2: Warm-up 8:25 a.m. - 8:40 a.m. RACE 2:05 p.m. 45 laps, 68.43 miles
DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP: Heading into the eighth of 13 Atlantic races, Player's-Forsythe driver Lee Bentham, of Richmond Hill, Ont., has forged a tie with Lynx Racing's Memo Gidley, of Novato, Calif., for the points lead at 86. Bentham's teammate, Alex Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., has moved into a tie with B.D.J.S. driver Andrew Bordin, of Woodbridge, Ont., for third place, just 10 points back at 76. Gidley's teammate, Buddy Rice, of Phoenix, Ariz., is fifth at 70.
PLAYER'S CHALLENGE: Trois-Rivieres is Round 3 of the Player's Challenge for the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship. A total prize fund of $70,000 (U.S.) has been set aside for the 1998 Player's Challenge. The prize fund consists of $60,000, which will be distributed among the top-15 points leaders following races at Montreal, Toronto, Trois-Rivieres, and Vancouver, and includes a $10,000 bonus to the winner of the Player's Challenge at season's end. An additional $10,000 has been set aside for the three highest-finishing Canadian drivers competing in the Canadian Atlantic races.
Bentham and Tagliani, each with a victory and a second-place finish in the two Canadian races, are tied for the Player's Challenge points lead with 38. Kenny Wilden and Matt Sielsky are tied for third with 24 points. Andrew Bordin and Rob MacDonald are tied for fifth at 17.
RECENTLY: The Player's-Forsythe tandem of Bentham and Tagliani have been strong since round 4 at Milwaukee. Bentham has finished second at Milwaukee, first at Montreal and second at Toronto, while Tagliani has finished third at Milwaukee, second at Montreal and first at Toronto. Kenny Wilden, of Burlington, Ont., and his Mike Shank Racing/Trizec-Hahn/Newcourt team have risen in the last two events, winning at Cleveland and finishing third at Toronto, to move up to seventh in the points.
Conversely, the Lynx Racing duo of Gidley and Rice, which combined to win the first four races, has struggled in the last three races through a change in chassis (Ralt RT-41 to Swift 008.a) and an abundance of racing misfortune. Gidley appeared to be running away after winning three of the first four races, but a mechanical problem at Montreal, some racing contact while battling for the lead at Cleveland, and an early mechanical problem at Toronto has helped the field close the gap. Rice entered the Toronto raced tied for second in the points but a racing incident ended his day, dropping him to fifth in the points by the end of the race.
LOCAL DRIVERS: Tagliani of Lachenaie heads the list of local-area drivers, which also includes Luc Lesage of Trois-Rivieres, Alessandro Cerundolo of Montreal, Stephane Roy of Saint-Sauveur, and Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres.
LAST YEAR: Alex Tagliani won his second race of his Atlantic career here last year, leading the entire 45 laps. Joao Barbosa of Portugal finished second, followed by eventual series champion Alex Barron in third.
PREVIOUS WINNERS AT TROIS-RIVIERES: The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship has raced at Trois-Rivieres 22 times since 1974, including double races in 1995 and 1996. The list of previous winners at Trois-Rivieres is a "Who's Who" list of Atlantic and road racing greats: Tom Klausler (1974), Vittorio Brambilla (1975), Gilles Villeneuve (1976), Price Cobb (1977), Bill Brack (1978), Howdy Holmes (1979), Price Cobb (1980), Jacques Villeneuve (1981), Roberto Moreno (1982), Michael Andretti (1983), Dan Marvin (1985), Jacques Villeneuve (1989), Brian Till (1990), Jacques Villeneuve (1991), Chris Smith (1992), David Empringham (1993), David Empringham (1994), David Empringham (1995), Richie Hearn (1995), Patrick Carpentier (1996), Patrick Carpentier (1996), Alex Tagliani (1997).
RACE RECORDS: Qualifying: Jacques Villeneuve, Ralt RT-40, August '93 1:01.784/87.75 mph, Forsythe-Green Racing Race: David Empringham, Ralt RT-41, August '95 1:02.028/87.40 mph, B.D.J.S.
TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise Sunday's Round 8 at Trois-Rivieres on Saturday, Aug. 8, at 4 p.m., with repeat broadcasts on Sunday, Aug. 9, at 12:30 a.m., Monday, Aug. 10, at 5 a.m., and Sunday, Nov. 22, at 3 a.m. ESPN International will telecast the race on Saturday, Aug., 8, at 2 p.m. CTV will air it on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 3 p.m., while RDS will broadcast the race on Sunday, Aug. 2, at 3 p.m., immediately after the race ends. All times are Eastern.
NEXT RACE: Round 9 of the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held Sunday, Aug. 9, at the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.