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Newcomer Garcia Turns Quickest Lap in Opening Day
Borja Garcia
In his first-ever Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda test session, Spanish rookie Borja Garcia posted the quickest lap in the first of two days of series-sanctioned testing at Palm Beach International Raceway.

Garcia turned a best lap at 1:08.294 in the No. 6 Condor Motorsports machine to lead the 12-driver field at the test. The 26-year-old Spaniard brings previous experience in GP2, World Series by Renault and Spanish Formula 3 among other European racing series with him to the Atlantic Championship. Beyond it being Garcia’s first time in an Atlantic car, it is also the first time Garcia has ever been to the United States.

“I’m really impressed, especially in the car,” said Garcia. “I think it’s really fun to drive. It’s harder to drive this car for the first time. I really surprised myself because in the first test, I did the best time in the morning and also in the afternoon. I think for me it’s very, very good. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, also, but it’s a good start for me and my team. We’ll see what happens.”

Second quickest on the day was John Edwards in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing at 1:08.545. Edwards, who won the 2008 Star Mazda championship, was among the first drivers to sign for the 2009 Atlantic season. He is returning to the series in 2009 two years after he became the youngest driver to compete in the series as a 16-year-old rookie in 2007.

“The test went really well,” said Edwards. “We haven’t had a lot of testing. I think the last time I was in the car was four months ago, despite signing pretty early on in the off-season, we haven’t had but two days. It was really good to get out and get some real testing done. We ran through some stuff this morning and this afternoon. The track was a lot different and a lot slower, so we ran through some more stuff. Our times were still competitive, even though we were just running through some changes and all that. I’m really happy with it. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll try and go a little faster and concentrate on lap time a little more and use what we learned today.”

Third-quickest was Simona De Silvestro at 1:08.823 in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine for Team Stargate Worlds. De Silvestro enters her third season of Atlantic competition in 2009 and joined Team Stargate Worlds last month. De Silvestro became the second woman in series history to win a race in the 2008 Atlantic season-opener in Long Beach.

“The team is great,” De Silvestro said. “I think we’ve got a great program together for this year. Burke (Harrison) is a great engineer and the mechanics are doing a fantastic job. It’s only our second test, so we’re still taking the dust off the off-season, but I think it’s going pretty well. I think we can improve a lot during the race weekends.”

Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch was fourth-quickest in the No. 17 Genoa Racing machine with a lap at 1:09.010. Defending series champion Markus Niemela completed the top five with a lap at 1:09.060 in the No. 1 Mr. Jones/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NWR entry for Newman Wachs Racing.

The top-seven drivers were covered by less than one second, and the full day of testing was run without incident. A full day of testing is also scheduled for Wednesday at PBIR before the teams head to Sebring International Raceway for the 2009 season-opener on March 20.

Practice Times for Day 1 of Atlantic Testing at Palm Beach International Raceway:

1. Borja Garcia (R), No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 1:08.294, AM Session.
2. John Edwards, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:08.545, AM Session.
3. Simona De Silvestro, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:08.823 , AM Session.
4. Frederic Vervisch (R), No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:09.010, PM Session.
5. Markus Niemela, No. 1 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:09.060, PM Session.
6. Frankie Muniz, No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:09.144, PM Session.
7. Jonathan Bomarito, No. 26 Mathiasen Motorsports, 1:09.149, AM Session.
8. Matt Lee, No. 22 Jensen MotorSport, 1:09.339, PM Session.
9. Alexander Rossi (R), No. 16 Genoa Racing, 1:09.488, PM Session.
10. Max Lefevre (R), No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:09.510, AM Session.
11. Harald Schlegelmilch (R), No. 21 Conquest Racing, 1:09.830, AM Session.
12. Michael Nacol (R), No. 2 Jensen MotorSport, 1:12.706, AM Session.

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