Trois-Rivieres: Race preview

Round 9 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 1.521-mile temporary street course, as the weekend's feature event at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres. Sunday's race will mark the 27th time since 1974 the Atlantic ...

Round 9 of the 12-event CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held on the 1.521-mile temporary street course, as the weekend's feature event at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres. Sunday's race will mark the 27th time since 1974 the Atlantic series has competed on the streets of Trois-Rivieres.

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, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani, 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 2:
Practice 9:50 a.m. -- 10:20 a.m.
Qualifying 2:00 p.m. -- 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 3:
Practice 9:00 a.m. -- 9:30 a.m.
Qualifying 12:30 p.m. -- 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 4:
Warm Up 8:00 a.m. -- 8:15 a.m.
RACE 1:05 p.m. -- 2:05 p.m.

Race Preview:
Although the 45-lap race around the 1.521-mile temporary street circuit does not start until Sunday afternoon, the battle to become the eventual winner will begin in Friday afternoon's qualifying. The year was 1995 when the race winner came from behind the pole sitter, so the driver that can start the race up front will have history on his side to capture the prestigious Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship returns to Trois-Rivieres for the 27th time dating back to 1974 when American Tom Klauser, won the first race to be run on the streets of a Canadian city. The winner of the 2002 Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres will add his name to a list of drivers such as Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Andretti, Roberto Moreno, Patrick Carpentier, and Alex Tagliani.

Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport/Viewsonic Swift 014.a) is competing in his fourth Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres this weekend. The California driver sums up why this race is so special. "Trois-Rivieres is definitely a great race," said Moran Jr.. "It is real exciting to be the main attraction here this weekend. It is very special to have that extra attention on us for this race. These fans are true race fans and they come here every year to show their support for us in the Atlantic Series. Because of their great support, they make us drivers feel like stars. It is truly an amazing feeling racing at this venue and definitely a highlight of racing in the Toyota Atlantic Series." This year's event happens in the midst of one of the tightest points battles in Atlantic history. With four races remaining, Canadian Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) leads the Championship with 101 points and is trying to become the first Canadian driver to win the Championship since Lee Bentham won in 1998. Both of Valiante's wins this season came on the street course circuits of Long Beach and Toronto. He finished fourth in this event last year; so the Burnaby, BC native should be one of the favorites this weekend as well.

Chasing Valiante in the Championship are American rookie drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Medlock Ames Winery/U.S. Print Swift 014.a) and Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a). Hunter-Reay, driving for the team that won this event last year along with the 2001 Championship, has won three races this season. After getting the season off to a slow start where the Boca Raton , Florida driver only scored three points in the first three races, Hunter-Reay stormed back into Championship contention winning races at Laguna Seca, Chicago, and in Cleveland two weeks ago. Hunter-Reay dominated all three of those events winning them by more than seven seconds each. The performance has pushed Hunter-Reay all the way to second place in the Championship with 93 points, just eight points shy of Valiante.

Although Fogarty has only won one race thus far, he has been able to post top-five finishes in six of the season's first eight races. His only blemishes came at Laguna Seca where a mechanical failure sidelined him while running second and a contact incident in Toronto which came while fighting for the lead. Despite those two miscues, Fogarty is right in the thick of the Championship battle with 92 points, nine points behind Valiante. Trois-Rivieres will be a new venue to many of the members of Fogarty's team, Dorricott Racing. Even though the team raced here as late as 1998 with the Dayton Indy Lights Championship, it will be new to two of their three drivers.

All three of Dorricott Racing's drivers are in the hunt for the Championship including Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a), who finished third here two years ago while driving for the All American Racers team. Gurney and his teammate, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) lead a pack of drivers needing strong results this weekend to keep themselves in the Championship hunt because the lead trio of Valiante, Hunter-Reay, and Fogarty are threatening to break away and turn the it into a three driver chase. Gurney holds 75 points heading into this weekend's race and is still searching for his first career Atlantic win while Diaz, who won at Portland along with winning two poles thus far, is only one behind with 74 points. While Gurney holds the fourth place in the Championship, the ninth place driver, Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/Corona Modelo Swift 014.a) is only 12 behind with a total of 63 points.

Two drivers with more experience at Trois-Rivieres as anybody in the Championship is Canada's Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings/Miller Genuine Draft/Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) and Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport Swift 014.a). Both drivers have posted solid results this year and have been knocking on the door for their first wins of the season. Macri, who has run this track with the Canadian Formula Ford 1600 Series and in Atlantic competition, has posted two runner-up finishes this year which came at Portland and Toronto. Moran Jr., who is running in his fourth Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres, has posted one runner-up finish which came at Laguna Seca. Moran Jr. is still trying to dig out of the hole from Toronto where he finished third, but lost the 14 points earned there after the car failed the post-race inspection. The point deduction is the difference in Moran Jr. being fourth in the Championship and his current spot of seventh with 70 points. Macri sits in a close sixth with 72 points.

At the half-way point of the season following the Chicago event, Roger Yasukawa (Hylton Motorsports/ Autobacs/ U.S. Print Swift 014.a) was within striking distance of the Championship lead. Two races later finds the California driver mired back in eighth place with 67 points, 34 behind Valiante. Incidents where his car was hit from behind in Toronto and Cleveland knocked Yasukawa out of the those events and kept him from earning anymore valuable Championship points. Lavin is the final driver in this mix with 63 points. Lavin posted a second place showing earlier this season at Milwaukee and is still searching for his first career Atlantic win. His chances are good at Trois-Rivieres as he makes his second appearance at the historic event. Lavin clawed his way from 14th here last year to finish 7th while teammate, Martin Basso, ran a strong second to eventual winner, Hoover Orsi. Lavin's 2002 teammate, Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (Michael Shank Racing Swift 014.a), makes his first visit to Trois-Rivieres while rounding out the top-ten in points with a total of 51.

Coming off his best performance of the season is Waldemar Coronas (Scuadra Fortia/Aviacsa/Royse/Maizoro/ Millenio Swift 014.a) who posted his best qualifying effort three weeks ago in Cleveland. Although the sixth place finish did not top his fifth place finish at Chicago, the overall showing on a difficult Cleveland track that he had never seen before was a moral victory for the Argentinean driver. Coronas in only three points behind Dalziel for tenth in the Championship with 48 points. A top-ten points performance for Scuadra Fortia would be a good showing for the first year team that did not even have cars or equipment six weeks before the first race in Monterrey, Mexico back in March.

Making his Atlantic debut this weekend is Marc Devellis (Sierra Sierra Enterprises/Pro Works Swift 014.a). The team, along with their Burnaby, BC, Canada driver, had pin pointed the event in Trois-Rivieres as their starting spot and have been working to be sure they come prepared this weekend. Richard Raeder, who was an instrumental part of Hylton Motorsports' 2001 Championship is on board as team manager while 1993 and 1994 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, David Empringham is along in the driver development role.

It is still unclear at this point who will be in the seat this weekend for DSTP Motorsports. Joey Hand is in the final stages of recovery from injuries sustained in a testing accident at the Milwaukee Mile in mid May. While the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Rookie of the Year mended from those injures, the team called on 2000 Atlantic Champion, Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsport/BG Products Swift 014.a). Hand could possibly make it back this weekend, but most likely will return to action in two weeks at Road America. If Hand is not able to go, Rice would compete in the event he won two years ago. Rice also has some momentum on his side after finishing second this past week at Michigan in his first ever IRL event.

Hometown favorite, Stephan C. Roy (BBGP Racing/Playstation 2/Betonusa.net Swift 014.a) will make his third start in his birthplace. His finishes of 12th and 16th in his previous two attempts have Roy hungry to perform well in front of his hometown fans.

Atlantic Fast Facts:

Hunter-Reay leads Fogarty by one point in the Rookie of the Year standings. Hunter-Reay leads 93-92.

Michael Valiante and Rodolfo Lavin have completed all 333 laps run this season. Moran Jr has run 332.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has led the most laps. (160) Valiante and Fogarty have led 42 each.

Hunter-Reay has three wins and three poles...the highest total in any category.

Alex Gurney is the only driver to lead a lap that has not won a race this season.

Eight Atlantic races have produced five different winners. All of them were career first wins.

The top ten in points all have finished second or better at least once this season.

Hunter-Reay has won over $100,000 in prize money so far this season.

The Atlantic Championship paid out $500,000 in points fund money last week.

Television Broadcast:
LIVE TV! Speed Channel will broadcast Sunday's Round 9 race from Trois-Rivieres on Sunday, August 4, at 1:00 p.m. ET, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on RDS on same day delay, Sunday, August 4 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Speed Channel will rebroadcast the race on Monday, August 5, at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Next Race:
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will take their final break of the season next week before returning to action on August 18th at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The series then finishes out the season in the following two weeks with stops in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and Denver, Colorado.

-cart/atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Michael Andretti , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Jon Fogarty , Martin Basso , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Rocky Moran Jr. , Luis Diaz , Danny Sullivan , David Empringham , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Buddy Rice , Rodolfo Lavin , Waldemar Coronas , Rocky Moran , Michael Shank , Lee Bentham
Teams Michael Shank Racing