Three-Way Atlantic Championship Title Fight One year ago, a three-driver battle for the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda title was decided in a thrilling race at Road Atlanta, which was the 2008 season finale. While there is one more round following this year’s Atlantic Championship race at Road Atlanta, there is once again a three-driver battle, and Friday’s race could go a long way in determining who will win the 2009 championship.
Simona De Silvestro leads the championship into the penultimate round by eight points, 160-152, over John Edwards, with Edwards’ Newman Wachs Racing teammate Jonathan Summerton another four points back. There are a handful of scenarios in which De Silvestro could feasibly clinch the title on Friday afternoon. If De Silvestro were to win the race and take a bonus point for either starting from the pole position or by improving the most positions in the race, she would clinch the title if Summerton finished fifth or worse and Edwards came home sixth or worse.
A De Silvestro victory without a bonus point would require Edwards to finish fifth or better without a bonus point of his own or sixth with a bonus, while Summerton would need to finish fourth without a bonus or fifth with a bonus point to stay alive. The final championship-clinching scenario for De Silvestro requires her to finish second with a bonus point, Edwards to finish ninth with a bonus point or eighth without and Summerton to finish seventh with a bonus or sixth without. All that being said, it seems much more likely that the title fight will come down to the final race of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, October 11 based on the performance of all three drivers throughout the season.
Driving the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine, De Silvestro has had an outstanding season with a series-leading four victories, four pole positions, nine consecutive podiums from Round 2 at Miller Motorsports Park through Round 9 at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres and top-five results in nine of her 10 starts this season. The lone blemish on her otherwise sparkling season came last time out at Mosport International Raceway, where she crashed and wound up 10th in the final race standings.
That crash opened the door for both Edwards and Summerton, who took full advantage of the situation. After starting from the pole position in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine, Summerton led every lap at Mosport en route to his third victory of the season and his sixth podium of the year. He was followed closely by Edwards, who also earned his sixth podium result of the season with a second-place performance in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry.
While the title fight takes center stage, Friday’s race will include a number of other intriguing drivers and storylines. Chief among them is the return of Jonathan Bomarito to Atlantic Championship competition as a teammate to De Silvestro with Team Stargate Worlds. The American racer will be making his first Atlantic start since the 2009 season opener at Sebring in the No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Games/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies ride filling in for regular driver Frankie Muniz, who had season-ending wrist surgery last month. Bomarito is a five-time winner in Atlantic competition and appears sure to be a front-runner.
Another one to watch will be defending series champion Markus Niemela in the No. 1 Jensen MotorSport machine. The Finnish driver wrapped up his 2008 series title in dramatic fashion at Road Atlanta last year by taking the lead late in the race and going on to score the second victory of his Atlantic career. Niemela has also finished inside the top five in each of his last three Atlantic starts.
Also not to be overlooked this week is the three-car entry from Genoa Racing. Leading the charge for the team is Belgian driver Frederic Vervisch, who currently tops the Rookie of the Year standings by 25 points over Borja Garcia, 113-88. Vervisch owns four podium results from the season, including a third-place run last time out at Mosport last month. Vervisch will once again drive the No. 17 Quartier/Isomo/Shinokki machine this week at Road Atlanta.
Joining the Genoa Racing squad at Road Atlanta is Englishman Greg Mansell, who is making his first Atlantic appearance since the 2008 season finale, in which he finished an Atlantic career best of fifth. The son of 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and 1993 IndyCar World Series champion Nigel Mansell is entered in the No. 18 Genoa Racing machine.
Completing Genoa’s three-driver lineup is rookie James Winslow in the No. 19 C.A.R.S./E.T.T./D.H.S. entry. Winslow is returning to Atlantic competition this week after sitting out the race at Mosport. His best result of the season came last month at Mid-Ohio, when he finished sixth, and he was one of the only drivers in the series to have completed every lap of the season before missing the Mosport round.
Another one to watch this weekend is Tonis Kasemets in the No. 35 Fatburner entry from Polestar Motor Racing. Kasemets is currently fifth in the championship standings and has finished inside the top five in five of 10 races thus far in 2009. He seems to thrive on high-speed permanent road circuits like Road Atlanta.
Also on the entry list are a pair of machines from Condor Motorsports, including the No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk/CJConsulting.us ride for Garcia and the No. 7 DOTMOBIL entry for French rookie Max Lefevre, as well as owner/driver Eric Jensen, who is entered in the No. 3 Jensen MotorSport machine.
All Atlantic racecars this weekend will utilize Swift 016.a Atlantic chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each entry will ride on Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires throughout the weekend.
Official on-track activities for the Atlantic Championship get underway on Wednesday with a pair of practice sessions, the first from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. and the second scheduled to run from 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. ET. Thursday’s lone on-track session for the Atlantic Championship is qualifying from 1:35 to 2:05 p.m. and Friday’s race-day schedule calls for an all-driver autograph session from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m., followed by the 45-minute timed race, which rolls off from a standing start at 1:25 p.m.
Live Timing & Scoring data, news and photos from throughout the weekend are available on the official website of the Atlantic Championship at www.atlantic-championship.com. Updates will also be available throughout the weekend via the series’ official YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/AtlanticRacingSeries, the Atlantic Championship Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brownsburg-IN/Cooper-Tires-Presents-The-Atlantic-Championship-Powered-by-Mazda/90562133620?ref=mf) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/atlanticracing).
COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
• Three-Way Battle: The battle for the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda is coming down to a three-way fight between Simona De Silvestro (No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds), John Edwards (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing) and Jonathan Summerton (No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing). De Silvestro currently leads by eight points over Edwards, 160-152, with Summerton another four points back. There are two races remaining on the schedule.
• Everybody Gets A Mulligan: The 2009 Atlantic Championship features a new wrinkle in the way the championship will be decided, as all drivers will earn points from their best 11 finishes in the 12-race season.
• On The Road Again: The 12-race 2009 Atlantic Championship schedule brings the series to many of North America’s most revered road racing circuits. The series shares seven race weekends with the American Le Mans Series at Sebring International Raceway, Miller Motorsports Park, Lime Rock Park, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Mosport International Raceway, Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Atlantic series is the “headline” attraction in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and in doubleheader weekends at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Autobahn Country Club in suburban Chicago.
• International Flair: This weekend’s race will feature drivers representing nine different countries. The United States has three drivers in the field, two from the United Kingdom, and one each from Finland, Canada, Spain, France, Belgium, Estonia and Switzerland.
• Rookies at Road Atlanta: This weekend’s field will include four Atlantic Championship rookies. The first-timers are Borja Garcia (No. 6 Condor Motorsports), Max Lefevre (No. 7 Condor Motorsports), Frederic Vervisch (No. 17 Genoa Racing) and James Winslow (No. 18 Genoa Racing).
COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
WHAT: Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda 6
WHEN: Friday, September 25
WHERE: Road Atlanta; Braselton, Ga.
ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT SCHEDULE (All times local, ET): WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 – Practice 1, 10:30 – 11:00 a.m.; Practice 2, 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 – Qualifying, 1:35 – 2:05 p.m. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 – Race, 1:25 – 2:10 p.m.
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.540-mile, 12-turn permanent road course
RACE LENGTH: 45 minutes
RACE ROUND: Round 11 of the 12-race 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda
NEXT EVENT: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, October 11.
ATLANTIC TRACK RECORDS:
Qualifying (1 Lap): Jonathan Summerton, 10/2/08, 1:14.137, 123.339 mph
Race (1 Lap): J.R. Hildebrand, 10/3/08, 1:15.006, 121.910 mph
Race (Full Distance): Markus Niemela, 10/3/08, 50:19.931, 105.976 mph
ROAD ATLANTA HISTORY (7 events, 1976, 1986-88, 1993, 2008-)
Year Race Winner Pole Winner
1976 Gilles Villeneuve Gilles Villeneuve
1986-1 Scott Goodyear Steve Shelton
1986-2 Calvin Fish Scott Goodyear
1987 Michael Greenfield Steve Shelton
1988 Steve Shelton Steve Shelton
1993 Jacques Villeneuve* Jacques Villeneuve*
2008 Markus Niemela Jonathan Summerton
* - Son of Gilles Villeneuve.