goes wire-to-wire in Long Beach
sunshine returned to California today and it shone down on Scotland’s Ryan
Dalziel as he piloted the #28 ProWorks Sierra Sierra Enterprises entry to a
dominant victory in Round 1 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship at Long Beach.
The 22-year-old from Lanarkshire, starting from pole, merited his title
favourite status by leading every lap of the 31-lap street race, trailed home at
the chequered flag by team-mate Andrew Ranger, the young duo delivering Sierra
Sierra Enterprises’ first ever 1-2 finish.
Dalziel’s pole, fastest race lap and dominant victory place him firmly at the
top of the championship points table – a position he fully intends to maintain
throughout 2004 having finished runner-up last year!
Ryan immediately stamped his authority on a race that was littered with no fewer
than four full-course yellows. As the green-flag fell at the start he put pedal
to the metal sprinting to Turn 1 ahead of 2002 champion Jon Fogarty. From there
Dalziel focused on pulling away from the ensuing pack, all eager to gun for
glory in the opening round. With five laps down Ryan’s advantage over Fogarty
was pushing three seconds, further increasing to five seconds with a third of
the race completed.
The first full-course yellow came on lap 14 with Andrew Ranger now shadowing his
team-mate thanks to the demise of Fogarty. At the green flag Ryan again sprinted
away only to have his latest charge cut short with the second full-course yellow
on the same lap. The following re-start, on lap 21, was similarly short-lived as
again another incident forced the safety car out and once more Ryan would have
to defend his lead from Ranger. This he duly did on lap 25 but incredibly a
fourth full-course caution almost immediately at the re-start meant the Scot
would have to watch his mirrors yet again!
Dalziel’s maturity behind the wheel was showcased beautifully on lap 28 as the
pack was finally unleashed to an incident-free three-lap dash to the flag, the
#28 pilot again keeping his cool at the fourth re-start. The lengthy delays
meant the race distance would be settled by time rather than laps completed with
the chequered flag waved after 50 minutes and a total of 31 laps, one short of
the 32 originally scheduled.
Ryan punched the air with delighted as he crossed the line comfortably ahead of
Ranger in second, his triumph on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit marking
his third career Toyota Atlantic victory and his best ever finish at Long Beach,
Commenting on his triumph Dalziel enthused:
“It’s been a mega weekend! Last season was awesome but we all knew there was
room for improvement. There was a lot of hard work over the winter with the team
emerging even stronger and together with Andrew, as proved by today’s result,
Sierra Sierra Enterprises now has two competitive cars capable of running at the
front in every session.
“My car was fantastic all weekend, we found some things to fine tune for today’s
race and it really helped in pushing for the win. It wasn’t quite the race we
were expecting with the all the caution periods, the re-starts were the key to
victory. It was frustrating to see my advantage wiped out following an excellent
first third of the race but I did a good job controlling the proceedings and the
car handled well at the starts despite cold tires.
“I was running out of ideas by the time of the fourth start but I managed to
keep Andrew behind me by pulling just enough space to get a good run onto the
main straight to take each green flag. I knew Andrew would be quick so I had to
keep pushing all the way to the finish. Overall I think my result and the team’s
first 1-2 finish is a reflection on the amount of work put in over the winter to
ensure we fight for the championship from the very start. Roll on Mexico!”
Next up for Ryan and the team is a test session at Portland, Oregon starting
Tuesday (20th April) in preparation for the double-header event, Rounds 4 and 5,
to be held there in June. The Toyota Atlantic Championship heads south of the
border to Monterrey, Mexico for Round 2 on 23rd May.
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