The Atlantic Championship springs back into action this weekend with not one, but two, races on New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway on Saturday and Sunday [13-14 June] to headline the Mazda Formula X meeting.

Reigning Star Mazda champion John Edwards sits at the head of the points table after two rounds, at Sebring and Miller Motorsport Park, but has Simona de Silvestro for close company as the season's two winners show the way to the rest of the field.

Edwards leads by five points, having scored podium results in both races thus far, including a dominant victory in the season-opener and second place behind his Swiss rival last time out. The Newman Wachs Racing driver is no stranger to success at New Jersey Motorsports Park either, as he won the first race of a Star Mazda double-header there last year. It was one of four series victories in 2008 for Edwards, but he knows that he has his work cut out for him if he is to do it again this weekend.

"I'm looking forward to going back to New Jersey, as I enjoyed driving the track last year, and finished well there despite an incident in race two that put me back to third only a few laps from the end," the 18-year Atlantic returnee commented, "Hopefully, this time we can be fast and stay out of trouble to get back to the top step of the podium!"

If last month's Salt Lake City round is anything to go by, however, de Silvestro will be tough to beat. The 20-year old put together a thoroughly dominating weekend in the #78 Stargate Worlds entry to earn a second career Atlantic victory, after also claiming her first series pole, and became the first woman in the 36-year championship history to win a race from the front of the grid.

"I'm pretty excited for this weekend because, at the last race, we were so dominant and I believe that we can transfer that same game plan over to this race," de Silvestro, who finished eleventh a year ago at NJMP, admitted, "I'm confident that we will start off with a good base with the car because my engineer, Burke Harrison, won here last year with Carl Skerlong."

de Silvestro's impressive showing accounted for only half of a celebration for Team Stargate Worlds in Utah, as team-mate Frankie Muniz posted the best result of his Atlantic career with a fourth-place performance in the #77 sister car. Muniz, who was born in nearby Wood Ridge, finished tenth in last year's inaugural Atlantic race at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

A three-car entry from Genoa Racing will also be a force to reckon with in both races of the Formula X double-header. Leading the way will be Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch's #17 entry, which has a pair of podium results to show for his first two starts in the Atlantic Championship. Having finished second at Sebring and third at Miller, however, Vervisch is looking to reach the top step of the podium this weekend, and will have ample back-up in the shape of 2009 regular Jonathan Summerton and NJMP newcomer James Winslow..

The reigning Atlantic runner-up, Summerton had the highest finish in the 2008 race in New Jersey, finishing second to winner Skerlong. He has started both races from the front row this season, including taking the pole at Sebring, and his fourth place in the championship standings belies his threat for victory

"Genoa Racing engineers are more than capable of finding the right set up, even though we only have one 45 minute practice before qualifying", said Jonathan. "I haven't been testing in the Atlantics so we just have to work that little harder."

Winslow, meanwhile, trails Vervisch by 17 points in the Rookie of the Year standings, but will consider himself on a par with the Belgian for the first time this season after moving to the Genoa squad, his third team in as many rounds, having previously taken eighth place finishes with both Conquest Racing and Jensen MotorSport.

Summerton's second place finish in last year's New Jersey round came at the expense of eventual champion Markus Niemela, who returns to Thunderbolt Raceway looking to get his season back on track with Newman Wachs Racing.

"I'm looking forward to the race at New Jersey, as I really like the track," the Finn insisted, "It's quite physical to drive and there are many different types of corners, which isn't the case at many of the other tracks. We have had a rough go these first two races, but last year at New Jersey was the pivotal point which turned my season around, leading to winning the championship. Hopefully, it will be a turning point for me again this year and we can finish on the podium."

Another driver to keep an eye on this weekend will be championship veteran Tonis Kasemets, who fields his own #35 entry after turning out at Sebring with Polestar and at Miller with Genoa. The Estonian owns three career Atlantic victories and currently finds himself in a tie for fifth in the championship standings with Muniz.

The two-car teams of Condor Motorsports and Jensen MotorSport will also be in action at New Jersey, with the former running rookies Borja Garcia and Max Lefevre, and Jensen fielding Mexican returnee David Garza alongside rookie Michael Nacol. Garza scored an career-best sixth last time out, at Road Atlanta in 2008, and will look to return to that sort of form this weekend.

Another driver returning this weekend is Richard Zober, who will run the #66 Zober Industries Inc machine from the Polestar Motor Racing awning in his first Atlantic start since New Jersey last year.

The C2 class will see an instant winner as soon as the races start as Michael Mallinen once again fields the only eligible entry. The Swan Racing driver 'earned' his first career victory last time out at Miller without opposition.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment