The Atlantic Championship will contest six races In the 44 days that separate Saturday’s race at Lime Rock and the race at Mosport International Raceway on August 30, and those races will undoubtedly go a long way toward determining the 2009 series champion. With one-third of the season already in the books, however, the championship battle is plenty close, as just 16 points separate the top four drivers in the standings.
Leading the way is the only woman driver in the Atlantic field, 20-year-old Swiss racer Simona De Silvestro. Now in her third year of Atlantic competition, De Silvestro has come into her own in 2009 behind the wheel of the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine for Team Stargate Worlds. De Silvestro is the only driver in the series to celebrate multiple victories thus far with dominating wins from the pole position in both Round 2 at Miller Motorsports Park in May and Round 4 at New Jersey Motorsports Park last month. De Silvestro leads second-year racer Jonathan Summerton by eight points, 68-60, heading into Round 5 at Lime Rock.
The 21-year-old Summerton, who hails from Kissimmee, Fla., picked up his first victory of the season in the first race of the New Jersey doubleheader last month with Genoa Racing and finished on the podium in three of the four races in addition to earning a pair of pole positions. After running the first four races of ’09 with Genoa, however, Summerton will reunite with Newman Wachs Racing this weekend and will pilot the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI entry. Last year, Summerton narrowly missed out on the championship with NWR in his rookie Atlantic campaign, earning two victories en route to third in the title chase.
While Summerton is looking forward in hopes of passing De Silvestro for the championship lead, he must also pay close attention to his Newman Wachs teammate, John Edwards, who is just five points back in third place. The 18-year-old Edwards — who makes his home in Cincinnati, Ohio — opened the 2009 Atlantic season at Sebring with his first career victory and has finished sixth or better in all four of his starts this season. He pilots the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy car.
Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch has quickly made a name for himself in Atlantic competition with podium performances in three of his four career starts and a best run of second in the Sebring season opener. Vervisch, who drives the No. 17 Roularta/Isomo/Genoa machine for Genoa Racing, is currently fourth in the overall championship standings with 52 points. He also leads the Rookie of the Year point standings by 20 points over Borja Garcia.
Garcia, of Valencia, Spain, picked up his first Atlantic podium result with a third-place run in the first race of the New Jersey doubleheader and finished fifth in the second race at New Jersey. He is now fifth in the overall championship and returns to the cockpit of Condor Motorsports’ No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk/CJConsulting.us entry this weekend looking to continue that momentum.
Garcia has a total of 32 championship points, the same amount as Estonian racer Tonis Kasemets, who has finished seventh or better in all four of his 2009 Atlantic starts. Kasemets, whose best result of the season was a fifth-place run at Miller Motorsports Park, will once again pilot the No. 35 Fatburner entry for Polestar Motor Racing this weekend.
One point behind the fifth-place tie is defending series champion Markus Niemela, who moves to the No. 2 Jensen MotorSport machine this weekend after driving for Newman Wachs Racing in the first four races of the season. After a slow start to the season, Niemela scored a pair of fourth-place results in New Jersey last month.
Two points behind Niemela is De Silvestro’s Team Stargate Worlds teammate, Frankie Muniz, who drives the No. 77 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies car. Muniz picked up the best result of his three-year Atlantic career in May with a fourth-place performance at Miller Motorsports Park.
British rookie James Winslow is currently ninth in the Atlantic standings and is once again entered in the No. 18 CARS Motorsport machine for Genoa Racing. Winslow’s best results to date were eighth-place performances in the Sebring season opener and Round 2 at Miller.
Max Lefevre completes the top 10 in the Atlantic standings heading into this weekend’s fifth round. The French rookie, who missed the opening race of the season due to illness, owns a best run of seventh in Utah. He will once again drive the No. 7 DOTMOBIL machine for Condor Motorsports this weekend.
This weekend’s race at Lime Rock will see the return of both Conquest Racing and New York’s Matt Lee for the first time since the 2009 opener in Sebring. In that event, Lee scored the best result of his Atlantic career with a ninth-place run for Jensen MotorSport, while the Conquest team finished fourth with Latvian driver Harald Schlegelmilch in its No. 21 entry and eighth with Winslow in the No. 12 machine. This weekend, Lee will drive the No. 12 JOJO Energy car.
American rookie Michael Nacol makes his fifth professional race start this weekend in the No. 3 machine for Jensen MotorSport. His best ride to date was a 10th-place performance in Utah. Richard Zober of Newtown, Pa. will also be back this weekend in the No. 66 Zober Industries, Inc./www.zober.com machine for Polestar Motor Racing. Zober made his 2009 Atlantic debut in the New Jersey doubleheader, scoring a pair of 12th-place results.
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.
The weekend schedule will see Atlantic machines on course for practice on Friday afternoon from 1:30 to 2:20 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying from 5:30 to 5:55 p.m. ET. Saturday’s 45-minute timed race rolls off from a standing start at 11:20 a.m. ET.
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 official Atlantic Championship Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brownsburg-IN/Cooper-Tires-Presents-The-Atlantic-Championship-Powered-by-Mazda/90562133620?ref=mf), Twitter (http://twitter.com/atlanticracing) and the series’ official YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/AtlanticRacingSeries.
LIME ROCK PARK
WHAT: Atlantic Championship – American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix
WHERE: Lime Rock Park – Lakeville, Conn.
ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT SCHEDULE (All times local, ET): FRIDAY, JULY 17 – Practice, 1:30 – 2:20 p.m.; Qualifying, 5:30 – 5:55 p.m. SATURDAY, JULY 18 – Race, 11:20 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.
TRACK LAYOUT: 10-turn, 1.53-mile Permanent Road Course
RACE LENGTHS: 45 minutes
RACE ROUNDS: Round 5 of the 12-race 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda
NEXT EVENT: Autobahn Country Club – July 24-26.
NEW JERSEY RACE HISTORY (10 Events, 1978-Present)
Year Race Winner Pole Winner
1992 Chris Smith Chris Smith
1991 Jovy Marcelo Jovy Marcelo
1990 Claude Bourbonnais Brian Till
1989 Claude Bourbonnais Claude Bourbonnais
1988 Freddy Rhemrev Steve Shelton
1987 Michael Greenfield Michael Greenfield
1986 Calvin Fish Michael Greenfield
1985 Michael Greenfield Michael Greenfield
1980 Jacques Villeneuve** Jeff Wood
1978 Bobby Rahal Howdy Holmes
LIME ROCK PARK
â€¢ It’s Been Awhile: > The Atlantic Championship returns to Lime Rock Park this weekend for the first time since 1992, when Chris Smith won the race after starting from the pole position on his way to the 1992 series championship. It will be the 11th Atlantic Championship race at the venerable Connecticut road circuit in the series’ 36-year history. Bobby Rahal, Claude Bourbonnais, Calvin Fish and 1991 series champion Jovy Marcelo are among the drivers who have won in Atlantic competition at Lime Rock.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ Local Favorites: While there are no drivers in this weekend’s Atlantic field who hail from Connecticut, there are certainly a few in the field who will have plenty of local support. Among those drivers are Jonathan Summerton (No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI) and John Edwards (No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy), who both drive for Newman Wachs Racing, which was founded by the late Paul Newman, who made his home in Connecticut. Manhasset, New York’s Matt Lee (No. 12 JOJO Energy) will likely also be performing in front of family and friends.
â€¢ International Flair: This weekend’s race will feature drivers representing eight different countries. The United States is best represented with a total of six drivers with one each from Finland, Spain, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Switzerland.
â€¢ Rookies Aplenty: This weekend’s field will include five Atlantic Championship rookies. The first-timers are Michael Nacol (No. 3 Team Jensen), Borja Garcia (No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk/CJConsulting.us), Max Lefevre (No. 7 DOTMOBIL), Frederic Vervisch (No. 17 Genoa Racing) and James Winslow (No. 18 Genoa Racing).