Atlantic teams ready for 2nd test

As the start of the 35th Anniversary season of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season draws closer, 10 teams representing 20 cars have committed to participating in Spring Training at the picturesque Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit on March 10-11.

All of the teams and drivers in attendance will undoubtedly be gunning for Forsythe Racing Inc. teammates James Hinchcliffe and David Garza, who claimed the top-two positions on the time sheets in testing at Sebring International Raceway last month. Toronto’s Hinchcliffe—who is entering his third year of Atlantic competition in 2008—was quickest on both days of the two-day test and will return to the cockpit of the No. 3 machine, while second-year Atlantic driver Garza of Monterrey, Mexico was second-quickest at the Sebring test and will again pilot the No. 7 car on the Monterey Peninsula.

Also posting top-five speeds during the Sebring test was Finnish rookie Markus Niemela with Brooks Associates Racing. Niemela will return to the cockpit of the team’s No. 8 machine, one of two entries that the Tucson, Ariz.-based BAR team is expected to bring to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The driver of the team’s No. 10 machine is still to be determined.

A pair of teams will bring three cars each to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Bloomington, Calif.-based Condor Motorsports will bring three cars led by second-year competitor Junior Strous in the team’s No. 6 Condor Motorsports/Team Holland entry. The Dutchman made nine Atlantic starts in 2007 and claimed four top-10 results with a best performance of fifth at San Jose.

Strous will be joined by his countryman, Dominick Muermans in the team’s No. 11 Condor Motorsports/Team Holland entry. Muermans competed in the first two Atlantic events of the 2007 season but is still considered a rookie for 2008. Brazilian rookie Douglas Soares is slated to drive the team’s No. 9 machine.

Long-time IndyCar racing stalwart Walker Racing will also field three cars. The team’s No. 25 entry will be driven by second-year Canadian pilot Kevin Lacroix, while the No. 15 car will be piloted by rookie Leo Mansell and the No. 5 entry will be driven by Greg Mansell. The Mansells are the sons of 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and 1993 IndyCar champion Nigel Mansell.

Joining Forsythe Racing Inc. and Brooks Associates Racing among the two-car teams will be PCM/USRT, Genoa Racing, Eurointernational and Newman Wachs Racing. PCM/USRT will field a pair of second-year drivers from America, with Carl Skerlong entered in the team’s No. 28 King Taco/PCM entry and actor-turned-racer Frankie Muniz in the No. 29 PCM machine.

Genoa Racing will also bring two entries to Spring Training. Entered in the team’s No. 17 car is 2007 Star Mazda champion Dane Cameron and India’s Imran Husain scheduled to steer the No. 37 entry for the Zionsville, Ind.-based operation.

Eurointernational brings two rookies to Spring Training. Canadian driver Daniel Morad, who won the 2007 Formula BMW USA title, will drive the team’s No. 70 machine, while Italian racer Edoardo Piscopo has been confirmed in the No. 16 Autocapital entry. It will be Piscopo’s first Atlantic open test session, as he missed the Sebring test last month, but he has participated in private testing with Eurointernational, which is making its debut in the Atlantic Championship this season. Second-year driver Simona De Silvestro is once again entered to drive the No. 34 entry for Newman Wachs Racing. The Swiss racer is the only woman among the 22 entries. The driver of the team’s No. 36 machine is to be announced.

Fielding one-car programs at Spring Training will be Mathiasen Motorsports and Paladin Motorsports. American driver Alan Sciuto is entered in the No. 26 RLM Investments machine for the Mathiasen team. Sciuto is preparing for his third full season of Atlantic competition and finished eighth in the 2007 championship standings. Driving the No. 45 Keller Williams entry for the Paladin squad will be second-year driver Adrien Herberts. The 18-year-old Canadian made 10 Atlantic starts with the team last year.

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