Atlantic series makes plans for 2008 season without Champ Car
The longest-running open-wheel driver development series in North America will contest its 35th Anniversary season in 2008 with today’s announcement that the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will conduct a 12-race schedule beginning April 18-20 in Long Beach, Calif. The announcement was made by series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, who will own the series with Gerald Forsythe.
“The Atlantic Championship’s history and record of developing drivers is so impressive that Jerry and I want to see it continue this season and for many years to come,” Kalkhoven said. “Many great drivers have cut their teeth in Atlantic over the past 34 years before moving on to terrific careers at the highest level of motorsports all over the world, including the Champ Car World Series, IndyCar Series, Formula 1 and NASCAR. An outstanding crop of drivers and teams will maintain that tradition in the 35th Anniversary season this year.”
The 2008 Atlantic Championship will feature a 12-race schedule that begins with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the weekend of April 20, with venues and dates for the remaining events to be released in the near future. The series also will conduct an open test for all 2008 teams and drivers at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on March 10-11.
The series will continue to be operated on a day-to-day basis by Managing Director Vicki O’Connor and her current staff. O’Connor has been at the helm of Atlantic since 1985, when her company, Pro-Motion Agency, Ltd. took over ownership of the Atlantic series. O’Connor remained in charge of the series after selling Pro-Motion Agency to Forsythe in 1996, as well as when Atlantic was later purchased by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) in 1998 and subsequently owned by Champ Car World Series, LLC beginning in 2004. The series will continue to be headquartered in Indianapolis.
“This is the beginning of another exciting chapter in the history of Atlantic and I am proud and honored to be a part of it,” O’Connor said. “Of course, this would never be possible without the tremendous support we enjoy from Mazda and Cooper Tire & Rubber Company and our other valued partners, as well as the support of Jerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven. There is an incredible amount work to be done before we get to our season opener at Long Beach, but we will be ready to go on the weekend of April 20.”
O’Connor currently is in Southern California meeting with key partners of the series and also will attend a MAZDASPEED Motorsports preseason business update with key members of the automotive media today. Announcements regarding the sanctioning body for the Atlantic Championship as well as broadcast information and prize structure are expected shortly.
The Atlantic Championship is noted for its long history of graduating its drivers to the top levels of motorsports all over the world, including IndyCar series champions and Indianapolis 500 winners Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Jacques Villeneuve, Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon, and Formula 1 world champions Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg among many others. Five of the last nine IndyCar Series championships and three of the last four Indianapolis 500s were won by Atlantic graduates. The top two finishers in the 2007 Atlantic Championship—Raphael Matos and Franck Perera—will compete in the Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series and IndyCar Series this season. Other 2007 open-wheel drivers who competed in the Atlantic Championship include Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud.
In addition, Hornish and former Atlantic champions Patrick Carpentier and A.J. Allmendinger currently compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, while two-time Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty and former Atlantic competitor Alex Gurney won the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype championship. Other Atlantic grads, including Johnny O’Connell and Luis Diaz, rate among the front-runners in the American Le Mans Series.