Valiante holds Gurney off for prestigious Trois-Rivieres win extends Championship points lead to 19. TROIS-RIVIERES, QUEBEC, CANADA (August 4, 2002) -- For the ninth straight race at the prestigious Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres, the person that...
Valiante holds Gurney off for prestigious Trois-Rivieres win extends Championship points lead to 19.
TROIS-RIVIERES, QUEBEC, CANADA (August 4, 2002) -- For the ninth straight race at the prestigious Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres, the person that won the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship pole continued on to win the race. Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) won the $1000 Toyota "Pole Award" yesterday and cashed it in for this third victory of the season today.
Although Valiante led all 45 laps around the 1.521-mile temporary street course in Trois-Rivieres, he had to fight off a hard challenge from Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr/Castrol Swift 014.a), who was looking for his first win of his career. Earlier this season, Valiante made a daring Turn 1 pass on Gurney at Long Beach that propelled him to his first career win. Today, Gurney tried to repay the favor on lap 36 at the tight left hand Turn 6. After chasing down Valiante, who had been slowed by lapped traffic, Gurney tried to outbreak the Canadian on the inside as the pair approached the turn. Gurney slid into the turn and took the lead briefly, but Valiante ducked to the inside exiting the turn and regained it by the time he had reached Turn 7. Valiante continued on to win the race by .742 seconds.
"First of all I want to say the Comptech motors are much stronger and they will be even better on faster tracks, said Valiante. "The key to winning this race was getting through traffic cleanly. I have to thank my team as always. They never get mad at me and I have to thank the ladies - Peggy (Haas), and Jackie (Doty)."
"I was trying to get Michael (Valiante) back for the Long Beach pass," laughed Gurney. "I just got into the turn a little too hot and locked up the brakes and the car slipped into neutral and I was not able to get off the turn as fast as I wanted to. It was a long hard race and we are happy with the result. This team shows its strength every race because it seems we always have at least one guy up here every time. I'm just glad it was me this go around."
Valiante also led a group of eight drivers that were under David Rutledge's 2001 fastest race lap record of 1:00.917 seconds (89.886 mph). Valiante took the record from his former Lynx Racing teammate and earned the WorldCom $1000 "Fast Pace" award with a lap of 1:00.574 seconds (90.395 mph).
The win was also the first for a Canadian driver at Trois-Rivieres since 1998 when Alex Tagliani won here. All three of Valiante's wins have come on temporary street circuits as well as winning both Canadian races to date, with Montreal on the schedule in three weeks. Today's runner-up showing was the second of the year for Gurney after finishing behind Valiante at Long Beach back in April.
Perhaps the biggest story of the event was the race turned in by Burnaby, BC, Canada driver, Marc DeVellis (Sierra Sierra Enterprises/Pro Works Swift 014.a), who along with his team, were competing in their first CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race ever this afternoon. DeVellis picked his way through the field and with two laps remaining, passed Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) to take the final podium spot.
"The attitude going into this was to be pretty conservative," said DeVellis whose team is still less than a year old. "I think we went back a few positions at the start, but I didn't mind because I wanted to keep clean because I knew we would have a very strong race car in the later stages of the race. I basically just waited for the car to come in and then charged hard at the end. When I went to pass Fogarty first, I tried on the inside. He tried to protect his line so he blocked me, but racing is racing and I tried again and made it past him. This is a sign of good things to come."
The win extended Valiante's Championship lead to 19 points over Fogarty with a total of 123 points with three races remaining. Fogarty moved to second in the Championship past Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Andor Capital Management/Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a). Although losing second to Fogarty and ground to Valiante in the Championship, Hunter-Reay salvaged what had been a tough weekend up until the race. Like DeVellis, Hunter-Reay worked his way through the pack on what is a traditionally tough track to make up ground and finished seventh after starting the race 15th. The performance allowed Hunter-Reay to keep the margin down to Fogarty to only two points, but now trails Valiante by 21.
"Finally we got close to a car we had been looking for all weekend," said Hunter-Reay, who like Valiante, has also posted three wins this season. "Considering we started 15th, I think we did a good job to collect some more points toward the Championship and now we'll focus our efforts toward Road America."
Rocky Moran Jr. (Sigma Autosport/Sunoco/BG Products Swift 014.a) rounded out the top five, but dropped to fifth in the Championship behind Gurney with 90 points.
Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) had a somewhat successful return after missing the past six races while recovering from injuries sustained in a May testing accident at the Milwaukee Mile. Hand dropped all the way back to last from his fifth place starting spot after receiving damage to his front wing early in the race, but charged back through the field to finish ninth.
"I knew this race was going to be a dogfight," said Hand. "There was a lot of blocking and wheel banging going on and unfortunately our front wing got caught up in the middle of it. The DSTP boys did an excellent job of getting things fixed and keeping me on the lead lap. About the middle of the race, I tuned the car a bit and just drove the wheels off of it. We kept reeling people in and moving up, but we just ran out of time, but it feels so good to be back."
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.