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Atlantic Championship Notebook
One of the hallmarks of open-wheel racing over the past several years was the presence of a dedicated, full-time safety team at each event. On several occasions, the safety team has literally saved the lives of drivers involved in incidents on-course.

Since the Champ Car World Series merged with the Indy Racing League earlier this spring, the safety team that normally serviced the Atlantic Championship was disbanded. However, through the generosity of an Atlantic Championship volunteer, a small safety team will be present for the Sommet des Legends event at Canada’s picturesque Circuit Mont-Tremblant on the weekend of June 29. Polly Gallimore, who volunteers with the Atlantic communications department to produce pit notes on race weekends, has agreed to fund the safety team for the Mont-Tremblant weekend.

Gallimore is one of the more colorful characters in the Atlantic paddock and has befriended many of the drivers and teams in the series. When she is not feverishly typing pit notes at her computer, she can usually be found in the paddock with camera in hand.

“After years of watching some of the most exciting on-track action with some of the most talented drivers the world has ever seen work their way through the Atlantic Championship, it is a pleasure to be able to give something back even in such a small way,” Gallimore said. “It is true that we have been witness to incredible safety improvements on race cars and race tracks, but I believe that the most important improvement has been the development of this safety crew.  We work diligently to ensure that these drivers are as safe as possible, but we are also acutely aware, and have sometimes seen, that lives can be changed in the blink of an eye. At these moments, it is readily apparent that time is of the essence and every second counts. The other thing is it’s different when you know the kids in those cars. It was with that in mind that I decided to do this.  It has been said that racing is just a business.  It’ has also been said that family takes care of its own.”

Mazda North American Operations will transport two fully equipped Mazda CX-9 safety vehicles previously used by the Champ Car Safety Team. The weekend safety personnel will include Champ Car Safety Team veterans Lon Bromley, Dave Hollander, Dr. Rick Timms, Tom Harrison, Joe Richards and Chris Hillen.

“I can’t thank Polly enough for her generosity,” said Atlantic Championship President Vicki O’Connor. “The Atlantic Championship truly is a big family and this is just another example of how this family works together and helps each other. We are extremely fortunate that Polly stepped forward to help us at Mont-Tremblant, and I must also thank Mazda for helping with the safety vehicles. Obviously, we hope that the safety team doesn’t have to work at all during the Mont-Tremblant weekend and can simply enjoy the beautiful scenery, but it certainly gives us peace of mind to know that they’ll be there.”

While the television package for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship is still being finalized, Atlantic fans can now catch on-demand video of the 2008 season-opener on the official Atlantic web site, www.atlantic-championship.com.

Video of the entire Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge of Long Beach—won by Simona De Silvestro, the second woman in series history to win an Atlantic race—is available in the video player located on the front page of the Atlantic site. Video of last month’s Monterey Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which won by Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe, is currently being processed and will also be available online shortly.

The drivers and teams of the 2008 Atlantic Championship have found a variety of ways to keep themselves busy until Round 3 of the Atlantic Championship at Mont-Tremblant at the end of this month.

Monterey Festival of Speed winner James Hinchcliffe attended the Indianapolis 500 last month and will return to the television commentary booth once again for this weekend’s Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Carl Skerlong, who finished second to Hinchcliffe at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, has been competing in the Northwest Region of the Rotax Max Challenge Series Presented by Mazda. Skerlong has also been riding a dirt bike on a motocross track to stay fit, while his Pacific Coast Motorsports teammate, Frankie Muniz, recently moved from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, Ariz.

Mathiasen Motorsports driver Jonathan Bomarito will put a somewhat different type of Mazda horsepower to the test this weekend as he is slated to co-drive the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8 in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Six Hours of The Glen. Bomarito will co-drive the machine with Craig Stone and Jameson Riley.

On the heels of their top-five performances in the Monterey Festival of Speed, Condor Motorsports/Team Holland racers Junior Strous and Dominick Muermans went for fitness and media training in Naples, Fla. Running along the beach, team strategy meetings, television media training and local interviews were part of their schedule. Team Holland also bought a pair of Yamaha jet skis to give the drivers some extra fitness training on the Gulf of Mexico at speeds approaching 60 miles per hour.

German racer Andreas Wirth returned to his home country and has been active in shifter karting. He plans to visit Italy next week for mountain training, which will include climbing, running, cycling and coordination training in addition to rest and relaxation. Wirth’s Brooks Associates Racing teammate, rookie Markus Niemela, has also been working on his training in Europe.

“I have used this break to train hard, as it’s not easy to get progress with your fitness level when there are a lot of races, as you can’t work out that hard,” Niemela explained. “When racing is on, it’s more like maintaining your fitness level and keeping your body as sharp as possible for the driving itself. I have also been working together with my management group to ensure good continuity for my career and have already been working on a 2009 program. Luckily, I have also had a chance to enjoy Finnish summer as well, which is actually really nice with light nights and so on!”

As for the BAR team, both the No. 8 and No. 88 machines were on display for Memorial Day weekend at Mazda dealerships near the team’s Tucson, Ariz. Headquarters, including Jim Click Mazda, which is one of the leading dealerships in terms of sales. The Atlantic car displays enjoyed great newspaper and television promotion.

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