HILLIARD, OH . . . With the second half of the 2003 Champ CART Toyota Atlantic Championship underway, the series heads north for the second of the three Canadian races on the schedule. This week rising open-wheel star Danica Patrick and the Team...
HILLIARD, OH . . . With the second half of the 2003 Champ CART Toyota Atlantic Championship underway, the series heads north for the second of the three Canadian races on the schedule. This week rising open-wheel star Danica Patrick and the Team Rahal Argent Mortgage Company team will face the historic 1.52 mile course of Trois Rivieres in Quebec. The famed Canadian course has been a staple of the Atlantic series every year since 1974 with the exception of a three year hiatus in the late 80s.
For Patrick and Team Rahal this is the first visit to Trois Rivieres. Canadian races have been significant to Patrick and Team Rahal over the years. Patrick made her Team Rahal/Barber Dodge debut at Toronto in 2002 and she recorded her best Barber Dodge finish of fourth at Vancouver in July of 2002. This year she finished tenth at Toronto extending her current top-ten streak to three straight races.
"Anytime you can run a famous course like Trois Rivieres there is going to be a level of excitement surrounding the event," said Patrick. "I have driven some famous courses for the first time this year and while it was a thrill the biggest thing as a driver is you have to tell yourself it is just another course and you have to do your job of finding the fastest way around the track. Running at legendary tracks like Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Montreal and Trois Rivieres will be something that I will look back on with pride later in life. Right now I just have to get ready physically and mentally for the race. This is a key stretch of the Atlantic season, four races in five weeks, and it will go a long way to determining where we will finish in the points."
The season started on a high note with a podium finish in her first Atlantic race at Monterrey, Mexico. Since then she has added a fifth place finish at Cleveland and a pair of sixth place results at Milwaukee and Portland. There have also been some frustrating moments like the first lap crash at Laguna Seca as she tried to avoid a scrum in Turn 6.
"As a driver you have to put the highs and lows behind you and focus on the task at hand," said Patrick. "Fortunately for me the disappointments have been followed quickly by another race and that helps you move past the frustration."
While results are always a goal, Patrick continues to focus on sharpening her skills as a driver in the competitive Atlantic series. With a mere seven Atlantic races to her credit, the young driver has tackled the steep learning curve of the series as she prepares herself for some day running at the highest levels of open-wheel racing.
"When Bobby signed me last year he told me that this was a process and that he would help guide me through the ups and downs and prepare me for the next step," said Patrick. "As a driver you want to drive in Champ Car and the Indy 500 but it doesn't benefit anyone if I try to take the step before I am ready."
Rahal, a three-time Champ Car champion and a alumni of the Atlantic series, has been impressed with his young charges progress. "Danica has shown time and time again she has the ability and the skill needed to make an impact in this sport in the future. I was thrilled when she was on the podium the first race, but what has impressed me just as much is the steady improvement she has shown over the course of the season. The ability to learn and get better is only going to pay dividends for her in the future."
PATRICK MAKING SERIES HISTORY
Danica Patrick's third place result at Monterrey, Mexico was the first time in the 30-year history of the Toyota Atlantic Championship that a female had finished on the podium. Coupled with the fact that Patrick is the first female to run a full season program, and she is writing Atlantic series history each time she drives the #24 Argent Mortgage/Toyota/Swift.
TEAM RAHAL MAKING TROIS RIVIERES DEBUT
Team Rahal, the Bobby Rahal owned racing team founded first as Rahal/Hogan Racing in 1992, has never won a Canadian event. The team has come close to winning in Canada finishing second five times (Toronto 3, Vancouver 2) including two-weeks ago when Gigante driver Michel Jourdain Jr. was the runner-up in the Champ Car race at Toronto.