Trois-Rivieres: Round eight preview

INDIANAPOLIS (July 30, 2003) - After winning the previous two events on the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship schedule, it seems fitting that rookie points leader A.J. Allmendinger's ( ...

INDIANAPOLIS (July 30, 2003) - After winning the previous two events on the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship schedule, it seems fitting that rookie points leader A.J. Allmendinger's (#4 RuSPORT) quest for three straight victories moves to Quebec's legendaryTrois-Rivieres (French for "Three Rivers") street circuit for Round 8 of the 12-race season, the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (SPEED Channel, Live, 1 p.m. ET).

The SPEED Channel telecast of the event is the series' third live television appearance of the season, with a fourth live telecast scheduled for Saturday, August 23 when the series visits Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for the Molson Indy Montreal.

Allmendinger currently holds a 27-point advantage over Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) in the chase for the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship title, and if he emerges victorious this weekend, he will become the first driver since 2001 series champion Hoover Orsi to win three consecutive Toyota Atlantic events. Orsi's three-race win streak also included a victory at Trois-Rivieres, which was sandwiched between wins at Chicago and Road America. A win this weekend would also give Allmendinger five victories on the season, which would be the most since Orsi won five in 2001 and would equal the most wins for a rookie in a season since Alex Barron won five during his championship-winning rookie campaign of 1997. Regardless of the outcome, Allmendinger stands to retain the championship lead at the end of the weekend.

However, while Allmendinger has been in the headlines throughout the 2003 season, four Quebec residents and two other Canadians will certainly get their share of attention this weekend. The Trois-Rivieres locals will have two of their own to root for throughout the weekend as natives Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation2/MGD/Momo/Mexxsport) and rookie Louis-Philippe Dumoulin (#17 Lynx Racing) look for their first career Toyota Atlantic victories in their hometown.

Roy will be making his fourth career Toyota Atlantic appearance at Trois-Rivieres with a previous best result of 12th in his first appearance in 2000 and a best starting position of eighth in 2001. Dumoulin, meanwhile, will be making his CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut with Lynx Racing, but is no stranger to the podium at Trois-Rivieres. The 2002 Canadian Formula Ford champion won both events at the venue en route to the series crown last year, and finished on the podium in both Canadian Formula Ford races in 2001.

This weekend's field will feature a total of four Quebecois, as Montreal residents Eric Jensen (#2 Westin Hotels) and rookie Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems) will also be representing the province in addition to Roy and Dumoulin. In fact, Montreal-based Starwood Team Jensen, which fields entries for Jensen and Fayer, is the only team in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship that is based in Canada.

Completing the Canadian contingent will be defending Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres champion Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) and Gormley, Ontario native Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings). Valiante, who recently announced that he is working with Walker Racing to put together a Champ Car World Series program for 2004, currently stands fifth in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship standings. If he succeeds in defending his 2002 title, Valiante would become the first driver to repeat in Trois-Rivieres since Alex Tagliani won back-to-back events in 1997 and '98. Macri, meanwhile, is currently third in the point standings on the strength of five podium finishes in seven starts this season, and comes into the weekend still looking for his first career Toyota Atlantic win. Both should be considered among the favorites to take the victory on Sunday.

Another driver who should rate among the favorites this weekend is Dalziel, who is welcoming a new teammate as Kyle Krisiloff (#7 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) has joined Sierra Sierra Enterprises after running the last five events with Dorricott Racing. Dalziel is no doubt hungry to cut into Allmendinger's championship lead this weekend, and comes in riding a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes and eight top-fives in his past nine starts dating to the Montreal event last year. It was at Trois-Rivieres last year that Sierra Sierra Enterprises made its CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut with Marc DeVellis at the wheel and the team picked up a third place finish, which bodes well for Dalziel and Krisiloff.

While Canada has six drivers in the field, so will the United States. Joining Allmendinger and Krisiloff are Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports), Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) and Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company). Justus comes to Trois-Rivieres after tying his career best starting and finishing position at Toronto by starting and finishing second to his teammate, and has only finished outside the top five once thus far in 2003.

Last year, Hand made his return to the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at Trois-Rivieres after missing the previous six races due to an injury sustained during testing at The Milwaukee Mile and finished ninth after qualifying fifth. His best finish in two previous appearances was sixth in his inaugural appearance in 2001, but he is looking to duplicate DSTP's performance from the 2000 season when Buddy Rice took the pole and the race victory.

Figge will be making his second career appearance at Trois-Rivieres and will be looking to better the 11th place result he earned in his maiden voyage last year. He currently ranks sixth in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship standings. Patrick, meanwhile, is making her first Toyota Atlantic appearance at Trois-Rivieres and currently stands eighth in the championship with five top-10 finishes in seven starts.

Completing the international lineup are a pair of second year drivers from Latin America. Dorricott Racing's Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) of Mexico City, Mexico, currently ranks ninth in the championship standings, and returns for his second go-round at Trois-Rivieres after finishing sixth in his first appearance last year. Likewise, Transnet Racing's Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource/LA Fitness/Diestra) from Venezuela returns to the site of the best performance of his rookie season of Toyota Atlantic competition last year where he finished 12th. Garcia is currently 11th in points.

All cars in the field will be Swift 014.a chassis powered by Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of producing 240 horsepower and speeds in excess of 165 miles per hour. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.

This weekend's schedule calls for the Toyota Atlantic machines to see their first on-track activity beginning with a 30-minute practice session at 9:25 a.m. ET on Friday, August 1 and will be followed by first round qualifying from 2:55 to 3:25 p.m. ET. Saturday's schedule provides for a second 30-minute practice session at 9:10 a.m. ET followed by a final 30-minute qualifying session at 2:40 p.m. ET. Race day will see the Toyota Atlantic competitors on track for a 15-minute warm-up session at 8:45 a.m. followed by Round 8 of the 12-race 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres at 1:00 p.m. ET. The scheduled distance for the race is 45 laps (68.445 miles) but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.

In addition to the live telecast, SPEED Channel will offer a rebroadcast scheduled for 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, August 8. Live Timing & Scoring data will be available for every session throughout the weekend on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

-cart/atlantic-

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Jonathan Macri , Alex Barron , Kyle Krisiloff , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Garcia , Buddy Rice , Alex Figge , Eric Jensen , Louis-Philippe Dumoulin , Aaron Justus , Philip Fayer , Danica Patrick