INDIANAPOLIS (July 20, 2004) -- With impressive victories in four of the last five races and a champion's steady hand at the wheel, Jon Fogarty ( ...
INDIANAPOLIS (July 20, 2004) -- With impressive victories in four of the last five races and a champion's steady hand at the wheel, Jon Fogarty (#96 Pacific Coast Motorsports) looks to be riding high as he arrives in Vancouver for this weekend's Round 8 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.
After holding off Canadian rising star Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Charmin/Mr. Clean/Snugabye) for a thrilling, down-to-the-wire victory on the streets of Toronto two weeks ago, Fogarty has to feel good about sitting in the Toyota Atlantic championship driver's seat. The American racer has already doubled his win total and equaled his number of pole positions from his series championship-winning year of 2002. He has found terrific chemistry on his Pacific Coast Motorsports team, although he insists the second-year squad is still learning and improving each race weekend.
Yet, as Fogarty readies himself for this weekend's 38-lap Atlantic race around Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place at the Molson Indy Vancouver (tape-delayed on SPEED Channel, Saturday, August 7 - 12 p.m. ET), it should be noted that despite his recent successes, the former series champ has plenty of work left to be done.
With a 184-point total in the championship chase, Fogarty only leads his closest pursuer, Ryan Dalziel (#28 ProWorks), by 19 points with five races remaining. Sitting third in the title chase is Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company), who is only 22 points behind Fogarty. The top seven positions in the series championship are only separated by 50 points. Under the new series scoring system adopted this season, up to 35 points are available for a driver on a given weekend. With five rounds and plenty of points remaining in the championship, there's ample opportunity for any number of drivers to wrestle the reigns of the title race away from Fogarty. The chasers, however, can't afford to have many more weekends like the one in Toronto, where Fogarty seized every point available to him.
The Atlantic series returns to the 1.781-mile temporary street circuit in Vancouver for the first time in three years this weekend. Fogarty, who owns four wins and four poles in 2004, will look to become the first series driver to win in both Toronto and Vancouver in the same season since Memo Gidley did the double play in 1997.
One of the drivers who hopes to prevent that feat is Dalziel. After a convincing flag-to-flag win in Round 6 at Cleveland that saw him draw to within three points of Fogarty, the speedy Scot slipped a bit in Toronto with a sixth-place effort. He needs to get back on track this weekend with his Sierra Sierra Enterprises squad to prevent any further separation in the championship.
With three podium finishes this year, Patrick continues to lie in wait in the title chase. After leading the series with six top-five results through seven rounds, she's proven to be a consistent front runner who could easily rise to the top of the standings if she gets hot over the last five races.
Ranger could be the wild card of the bunch this weekend. The 17-year-old Quebec rookie, who sits fourth in points, produced his fourth podium result in Toronto and gave Fogarty all he could handle throughout the race before finishing second. Ranger won last season in Vancouver in the Fran-Am series and he claims that he thrives on the pressure of racing in his native Canada in front of his family and friends. After his performance in Toronto, no one is doubting him.
While Ranger currently leads the BG Products Rookie of the Year standings, Denmark's Ronnie Bremer (#4 PaySystems) is hot on his heels, just one point behind in both the rookie and season standings. Bremer produced his second podium performance in Toronto and he's shown the ability to get up to speed very quickly on courses that are new to him this season.
American Bryan Sellers (#19 Lynx Racing) enters the weekend sixth in the championship. He's had good results on street circuits this year with a podium result in Long Beach and a top-five effort in Toronto. He hopes the street success continues in his first visit to Vancouver.
Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports), Fogarty's teammate, finds himself eighth in season rundown after seven races. After capturing his first Atlantic win earlier this year in Monterrey, Mexico, the third-year American driver will be looking to improve on back-to-back seventh-place finishes in the last two races.
Continuing a successful rookie campaign for the Rahal-Letterman Racing team, Chris Festa (#25 SpacePak/CareCentric) enters the weekend ninth in the championship and he'll be hoping for a good result on the streets of Vancouver. Fellow freshman Josh Hunt (#15 Wright/Patton/Shakespeare/Atkinson Gore Group) is also looking to bounce back on Sunday after exiting the Toronto event early due to an accident. Hunt sits 12th in the point standings and is looking forward to getting his Lynx Racing machine back on course this weekend.
The knowledgeable and boisterous crowd in Vancouver will have three more of its countrymen to root for in the Atlantic series this weekend, in addition to Ranger. Montreal's Philip Fayer (#3 PaySystems) tied his career-best finish of ninth in Toronto so he enters this weekend with some confidence. Dr. Chris Souliotis (#2 Trident/Speedway/Spinnakers), a three-time Canadian GT champion with four previous starts in Vancouver in that series, gets his first experience in a Toyota Atlantic machine this weekend with Jensen Motorsports. Souliotis is a resident of nearby Victoria, B.C., who is local dentist. Calgary's Cam Binder (#65 Binder Racing), a veteran of six previous Atlantic starts in Vancouver, returns to the track for the first time since 2002 this weekend at a familiar venue. Binder will be in the lone C2 class entry this weekend
The Toyota Atlantic machines that will battle wheel-to-wheel at Concord Pacific Place this weekend are all Swift chassis powered by 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engines capable of speeds in excess of 165 mph. All cars will ride on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks.
This weekend's schedule calls for the Atlantic cars to hit the track for the first time on Friday morning with practice from 9:15-9:45 a.m. PT. First-round qualifying is set for 1:15-1:45 p.m. Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Toyota engines will roar to life for a 30-minute practice session from 9:15-9:45 a.m. The final round of qualifying will take place Saturday from 3-3:30 p.m. On race day, warm-up is scheduled for 8-8:15 a.m. Sunday morning and Round 8 of the series -- the Molson Indy Vancouver Atlantic race -- will take the green flag at 10:30 a.m. PT. The race is scheduled for 38 laps (67.678 miles) or 50 minutes.
SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the Vancouver Atlantic race at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 7. The race will also air to U.S. service men and women in 77 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service. For additional information, visit the series' official web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com.
WHAT: Molson Indy Vancouver Toyota Atlantic Championship Race
WHERE: Concord Pacific Place -- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
WHEN: Friday-Sunday, July 23-25
FRIDAY, JULY 23
Atlantic practice, 9:15 -- 9:45 a.m.
Atlantic qualifying, 1:15 -- 1:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, JULY 24
Atlantic practice, 9:15 -- 9:45 a.m.
Atlantic qualifying, 3:00 -- 3:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, JULY 25
Atlantic warmup, 8:00 -- 8:15 a.m.
Atlantic race, 10:30 -- 11:30 a.m.
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 7 -- SPEED Channel, Molson Indy Vancouver Toyota Atlantic Race, 12 p.m. ET (Tape-Delay).
2003 CHAMPION: None (first time competing at the venue since 2001)
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.781-mile temporary street course
RACE LENGTH: 38 laps (67.678 miles) or 50 minutes
Qualifying (one lap) -- 2001, Hoover Orsi, 91.911 mph (1:09.759).
Race -- (one lap) 2001, David Rutledge, 91.729 mph (1:09.897); (38 laps) 2001, Joey Hand, 84.854 mph (47:51.305).
RACE ROUND: 8 of 12 in the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.
NEXT EVENT: August 8, Grand Prix of Road America, Road America -- Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
INSTANT REPLAY: The Toyota Atlantic machines last competed at Vancouver in the fall of 2001. Joey Hand, competing for DSTP Motorsports, earned his first series victory as a rookie at the event. He would go on to claim back-to-back wins at the next event in Houston, accounting for his two career Atlantic victories. Hand passed polesitter Hoover Orsi for the lead on Lap 17 and outlasted Canadian Michael Valiante to the finish line, winning in 1.25 seconds. The result did not come without some controversy, however. After finishing in third place, Orsi saw all of his championship points taken away after the event for a rules violation committed on Lap 22. The Brazilian Orsi, who was racing to score enough points to secure the series title, tangled with David Rutledge coming out of Turn 6. Series stewards ruled that Orsi violated the rule of "unjustifiable risk" when he moved over to prevent Rutledge from making a pass exiting the turn. Orsi still earned enough points over the weekend to secure the Toyota Atlantic Championship title with two races remaining on the schedule, while Hand took permanent control of the series Rookie of the Year standings.