Strong Lineup of Atlantic Teams and Drivers Participating in Test
A strong contingent of 18 drivers and 19 cars are in the midst of testing their Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda machinery at MSR Houston for the final time prior to the 2008 season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18-20. The test is scheduled for today and tomorrow, March 25-26, and is being conducted by Atlantic Championship teams at the 2.38-mile road course near Houston, Texas.
The list of teams and drivers in attendance includes many who have already proven to be quick in Atlantic-sanctioned open tests earlier this year. Dane Cameron, who was quickest on both days of Spring Training at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this month, is back in the cockpit of the No. 17 Genoa Racing machine at MSR Houston. The 2007 Star Mazda champion signed to drive for Genoa Racing for the full 2008 season on the heels of his impressive testing performance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Cameron has been joined for the test by Atlantic veteran Alan Sciuto, piloting Genoa’s No. 27 Mazda-powered, Cosworth-shod Swift 016.a.
Forsythe Racing Inc. teammates James Hinchcliffe and David Garza, who swept the top-two spots on the time charts in the first open test of the year at Sebring International Raceway early last month, are also testing at MSR Houston. Hinchcliffe is driving the team’s No. 3 machine, with Garza in the No. 7. Hinchcliffe and Garza placed just ahead of American standout Jonathan Bomarito at the Sebring test.
In Sebring, Bomarito and Cameron both drove for Sierra Sierra Enterprises, which has since opted out of Atlantic competition. However, Bomarito is once again in the cockpit of an Atlantic car at MSR Houston as he has joined forces with Mathiasen Motorsports and is driving the team’s No. 26 machine in the test session.
Another top-five performer in Sebring, Finnish rookie Markus Niemela is also present and accounted for at MSR Houston in the No. 8 Brooks Associates Racing machine. Niemela’s teammate for the test is no stranger to the Atlantic Championship, as German driver Andreas Wirth is aboard the No. 88 machine from Brooks Associates Racing. Wirth competed in Atlantic in 2005 and 2006 and owns three career victories in the series.
American racer Carl Skerlong is also on-track in Texas in the No. 28 PCM/USRT machine. Skerlong was second-quickest in the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca test. He is again joined by teammate Frankie Muniz, who is testing the team’s No. 29 entry.
As they had at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Condor Motorsports again has three cars on track for the two days at MSR Houston. Leading the way in the No. 6 Condor Motorsports/Team Holland machine is second-year racer Junior Strous. The Dutchman was fourth-quickest in the MRLS test. His countryman and teammate Dominick Muermans is piloting the No. 9 Condor Motorsports/Team Holland entry, while Brazilian rookie Douglas Soares is behind the wheel of the No. 11 Condor Motorsports entry.
Walker Racing also brought its three Atlantic machines to MSR Houston, with second-year driver Kevin Lacroix of Saint-Eustache, Quebec, Canada aboard the team’s No. 25 entry and English rookies Greg and Leo Mansell driving the team’s No. 5 and No. 15 entries, respectively. The Mansell brothers are the sons of 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and 1993 IndyCar World Series champion Nigel Mansell.
Simona De Silvestro continues to prepare for her second season of Atlantic Championship competition aboard the No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing entry. The team also brought its No. 36 machine to MSR Houston but has not listed a driver for it.
Completing the MSR Houston test entry is Jensen MotorSport, which is returning to test Atlantic machinery for the first time since the Sebring test in February. Driving the team’s No. 2 machine is Finnish rookie Henri Karjalainen, while Canadian rookie Brett Van Blankers—who also tested with the team in Sebring—is in the No. 22 Jensen MotorSport entry.
The MSR Houston test is the final meeting of the preseason for Atlantic teams. Following the test, teams will make their final preparations for the season-opener in Long Beach on April 20.