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Breakthrough for Hand Orsi Fined Championship Points, but Clinches Championship VANCOUVER, BC., (September 2, 2001) -- Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products) gave the 2000 Championship DSTP team its first win of the season at the Molson Indy...

Breakthrough for Hand
Orsi Fined Championship Points, but Clinches Championship

VANCOUVER, BC., (September 2, 2001) -- Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products) gave the 2000 Championship DSTP team its first win of the season at the Molson Indy Vancouver. Hand grabbed the lead from Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) on the 17th lap of the race and held on to the 1.25 second win over Vancouver's Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing/Italian Motors/Copart Auto Auctions Swift).

The win was the first of the season for Joey Hand, and also the first for a CART Toyota Atlantic Championship rookie this season. The veterans of the series; Orsi, Rutledge, and Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) have occupied victory lane during the first nice races of the season. The victory allowed Hand to move out to a 22-point lead in the Rookie of the Year Championship over Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift) who dropped out of the race early with a mechanical problem.

"I'm here to win," said American, Joey Hand. "Every race we come here to win. My team, with Buddy Rice last year was dominant, so I feel this team puts me in a winning race car every time. We don't not finish because of mechanicals, so I felt I owed it to them to get a win. If we go for wins, the Rookie of the Year is going to come on its own. Also, going into next year, we want to build some momentum. It looks like I'm going to stay with DSTP and that is a blessing for me. Hopefully, this momentum will keep going through the next two races and into next year." Hand continued on the race winning pass on Orsi. "I knew Hoover (Orsi) wasn't going to be too forceful in holding me up. He knew I was little more desperate than he was in looking for a win. He kind of let me out brake him and tucked in behind me, which is what I would have done if I was racing for a Championship. My car was really good on its own and once I got by, the car was really, really fast."

Hand was not the only winner on Sunday. Orsi captured the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, but not after losing all of his Championship points earned with his third place finish. David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift) dropped to a ninth place showing after he and Orsi made contact on the 22nd tour around the 1.781-mile Vancouver street circuit. The damage to Rutledge's Swift caused him to pit for repairs and subsequently, a loss of a lap to the lead lap cars. The contact took place when Orsi was pushed high on the exit of turn 6 by Valiante's inside pass. Rutledge tried to follow Valiante through, but Orsi moved over and touched the left front of Rutledge's Swift with his right rear tire.

"I was on the outside line and Michael (Valiante) dived inside and pushed me really wide," said Orsi on the incident with Rutledge. "I like to be lower to stay away from the tires, but he pushed me up to the tire wall. I was coming out of the corner onto the straight and David (Rutledge) was trying to pass me and we touched a little bit."

"Michael (Valiante) made a run on Orsi into the corner and I was watching because as in the case with most passes, the momentum is lost by both cars and there could be an opportunity to pass, said Rutledge on the contact. "So I positioned myself to do so and coming out of the corner, I was determined to go for the inside line and it was a line I was committed to. Orsi exited the corner and from my point of view, seemed to come directly across in front of me. At that point, I backed out as quickly as possible and he just kept coming over and there was nowhere for me to go." Rutledge continued. "These things even happen in Formula One. It's not a way that anybody should win a Championship, but it's something that occurs and I can learn from this. If I'm in a similar position again as we were today, the outcome might be different."

After the Series Chief Steward, K.C. Van Niman, and Stewards, Cliff Dawson and John Bornholdt, reviewed video tapes of the incident and the ruling was made to fine Orsi the 14 points he earned with his third place finish. The Stewards found that rule paragraph 8.13 per the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Rulebook had been violated by the driver of car #9. Therefore, the Stewards decided a penalty of loss of all points from the race, but not the bonus point for the pole position. Other rewards and finishing position results are to stand as provisionally posted.

Rule 8.13 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Rulebook reads as follows: Unjustifiable Risk -- Any action that represents an unjustifiable risk or reckless endangerment, in the opinion of the stewards, will result in the assessment of penalty(ies) pursuant to Chapter 10 of this Rule Book. Decisions by the stewards and penalties assessed for unsafe acts are not subject to protest or appeal.

The ruling leaves Hoover Orsi with 157 points, 44 ahead of David Rutledge who stands with 113 points in the Championship. Orsi, however, has still clinched the Championship with the 44-point lead with two races remaining on the schedule. Given the scenario of Rutledge taking all 22 points available in each of the remaining two races, and Orsi not scoring any points, Orsi would still be Champion based on the tie-breaker procedure of "Best Finishing Position(s)". Each driver would have five wins which would then go to second place finishes. Orsi would win the tie-breaker with three second place finishes compared to zero for Rutledge.

Orsi becomes the first Brazilian Champion in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship and seems destined to join a talented Brazilian driver core in the FedEx Championship Series. Orsi repeated a pattern set by the 2000 Champion, Buddy Rice of finishing on podium in nine out of this season's ten races or in every race he has finished. Orsi exited early in the Montreal event with a broken gearbox. Even though he did not win the race, Orsi collected his fourth consecutive $1000 "Toyota Pole" Award in the weekend's qualifying.

A relieved Orsi commented on his Championship. "I'm feeling great. I also have to say thanks to my team. All the races we have finished, we have been on the podium, so it shows how strong this team is. Without them, I would not be here. I'm really proud to have won the Atlantic Championship and I'm sure it will help a lot for my career in the future."

Valiante's runner-up finish was his second of the season, placing second behind Rutledge in Montreal. Valiante moved up to seventh in points despite only running half of the season's first ten races and is still mathematically alive in the Rookie of the Year points standing 27 points behind Hand. Valiante has finished no worse than sixth this year.

"The team has always given me a good car at the races I have run and it's been great," said hometown driver, Valiante. "So I really have to thank Lynx Racing for this. It's been a great season. The main focus for me and Lynx was to get good results at the races and we have accomplished that."

Despite the tough race for Rutledge, he stormed back to win the $1000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" Award just two laps shy of the finish. All this was accomplished with a car that still had some damage to it. "It took me a little while to figure out how to maneuver the car with the steering wheel kinked almost at a 45 degree angle, but once I mastered that it was good," said Rutledge. "I was determined to show that nothing can hold me up." Rutledge will now have to concentrate on the charging Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) who finished fourth today. Basso closed the gap on Rutledge today from 22 points down to 14 points with two races remaining. Basso is still the only driver to complete every lap turned this season.

The race was yellow flagged for three laps when Stephan C. Roy (P-1 Racing/Playstation 2/Momo/Seanix Swift) spun and made contact with the tire wall in turn 12 on lap 17. Roy was uninjured in the incident, but was forced to retire from the race due to the damage to his Swift.

ESPN2 and ESPN International will broadcast Sunday's Round 10 race from Vancouver on Sunday, September 9, at 10:00 a.m. ET, and Saturday, September 8, at 4:00 p.m. ET respectively, while Atlantic fans in Canada can watch the race on CTV SportsNet on dates to be announced shortly. ESPN2 will replay the race on Friday, September 21, at 5:30 a.m. ET.

-cart/atlantic

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Martin Basso , Tony Ave , Hoover Orsi , Michael Valiante , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Buddy Rice , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing