As the capacity crowd at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin looked on at the annual Atlantic Championship Awards Banquet and Celebration, the top performers both on and off the track in North America’s premiere open-wheel development series were presented with their awards following one of the most competitive seasons in the 33-year history of Atlantic racing.
In addition to the impressive hardware earned by the 2006 Award class, the Atlantic Championship also boasted one of the top purses in all of racing this season. Including the unique $2 million bonus earned by the series champion to help fund a ride in the 2007 Champ Car World Series, the total Atlantic prize money for ’06 measured $3,712,000.00
Highlighting the awards presented at Sunday evening’s festivities, as expected, was 2006 Champ Car Atlantic champion Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) and his title-winning squad – Team Australia. The French series rookie and the first-year Atlantic team walked away from the evening with a total of four separate honors after wrapping up the series title Sunday at Road America in the final race of the season.
In addition to Pagenaud being crowned series champion after producing a victory, a pole position, six podium results and a series-high nine top-five finishes in 12 races, the 22-year-old native of Montmorillon, France also earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors leading a crop of what was arguably the finest selection of first-year drivers in series history. Team Australia co-owners Derrick Walker – the longtime Champ Car team owner – and Craig Gore were named Atlantic Team Owners of the Year. In addition, Ryan Negron earned the Snap-On Tools Top/Wrench Award annually presented to the lead mechanic on the series championship-winning car.
After finishing second in the title chase and leading the series with five wins, four poles and 129 laps led while pushing the championship battle until the final race of the season, Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing were also recognized for their accomplishments. Already identified as a star of the future following his breakout Atlantic season as a 17-year-old rookie, Rahal won the BBS of America Rising Star Award. After preparing the car driven by Rahal all season for the first-year Atlantic Mi-Jack Conquest team, Tim Shank walked away with the Lincoln Welders Mechanic of the Year Award. And Rahal’s well-respected and experienced engineer Don Halliday seized the Atlantic Engineer of the Year Award for leading the team’s technical efforts this season.
Earning the prestigious Gilles Villeneuve Award as the driver who possesses extraordinary ability and that special star quality and has distinguished himself through sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance in the face of disappointment was Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) of Forsythe Championship Racing. Wirth, the second-year German Atlantic racer, produced two wins and six podium results this season on his way to finishing third in the series championship.
Following a very successful rookie campaign that saw him finish fourth in the series standings after scoring a win, four poles and four podiums for Sierra Sierra Enterprises, Brazil’s Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) won the Michael Rosen Award. Named after the former Atlantic competitor, the Michael Rosen Award was instituted by long-time Atlantic patron and fan Arlene Rosen in honor of her late son. The award recognizes both dedication and perseverance as well as the desire to succeed against all odds.
After earning his first Atlantic victory on Sunday at Road America, Californian Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports was presented with Jovy Marcelo Sportsmanship Award. Named in honor of the 1991 Atlantic series champion who was known as a true sportsman, a family man and a great racer and friend to his fellow drivers, the Jovy Marcelo Award is annually presented to the driver whose sportsmanship best exemplifies this former champion.
As the only driver this season to complete all 402 laps of competition, David Martinez (#4 Sub-Hub) of US RaceTronics and Bite Racing earned the K&K Insurance “Keep It On The Track" Award. The talented Mexican racer also earned a top-five championship finish for the second consecutive season as he finished fifth in the series standings.
Winning the $10,000 Sherwin-Williams “It’s All In The Finish" Award was Justin Sofio (#26 Mathiasen Motorsports/RLM Investments) and Mathiasen Motorsports. Sofio’s Atlantic entry was judged to have the best livery design at three separate races this season and became the first recipient of the season-long design award sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, the Official Automotive Finish of Champ Car and the Atlantic Championship.
Atlantic series sponsors Mazda USA, Yokohama Tire Corporation, Swift Engineering, Cosworth, The Gehl Company, BBS of America, Coast Fabrications, Dynamic Suspensions and Performance Friction Corporation also contributed to the season-ending celebration, with some companies providing specific rewards for the series award winners as well. Atlantic series officials also recognized the Yokohama Tire Corporation and its servicing arm Trackside Performance for their longtime partnership with the series. Yokohama completed its 18th season as an Atlantic sponsor in 2006 and both Yokohama and Trackside will explore new endeavors beginning next season.
For more information on North America’s premier open-wheel development series and to watch all of this season’s races on demand, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.
2006 YOKOHAMA PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
Series Champion – Simon Pagenaud, Team Australia
Atlantic Rookie of the Year – Simon Pagenaud, Team Australia
Gilles Villeneuve Award – Andreas Wirth, Forsythe Championship Racing
BBS Rising Star Award – Graham Rahal, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing
Michael Rosen Award – Raphael Matos, Sierra Sierra Enterprises
Jovy Marcelo Sportsmanship Award – Jonathan Bomarito, PR1 Motorsports
K&K Insurance “Keep It On The Track" Award – David Martinez, US RaceTronics
Team Owners of the Year – Derrick Walker and Craig Gore, Team Australia
Sherwin-Williams “It’s All In The Finish" Award – Justin Sofio, Mathiasen Motorsports
Lincoln Welders Mechanic of the Year – Tim Shank, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing
Engineer of the Year – Don Halliday, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing
Snap-On Tools/Top Wrench Award – Ryan Negron, Team Australia