Jonathan Summerton won the Atlantic Championship battle at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday night, but could not prevent points leader Simona de Silvestro from taking a significant step towards winning the season-long war.
One day after blistering the previous Atlantic track record in the #34 Newman Wachs Racing machine, Summerton moved out into the lead from the standing start and held off a charging de Silvestro to earn his second victory of the season by two seconds. Summerton's first 2009 win came in the first race of the June double-header at New Jersey Motorsports Park while driving for Genoa Racing, and his latest success closes the gap slightly to de Silvestro in the opening standings, although he remains third behind the Swiss driver and NWR team-mate John Edwards.
“I'd just like to thank the team for everything they've done all weekend,” Summerton said, “We started off the weekend a little rough. In the first few practices, we were down out of the top five, and then we slowly worked our way back up. For qualifying, we tried something new and it definitely worked. The lap time we did there in qualifying was with a little mistake, so I was really happy to still be on pole. Coming into this race, we just had to have a clean start. From there, I knew we had a car that could lead the race all the time.
“We both had good starts and, going into turn two, I think we both just missed the braking point or weren't expecting the track to be so slippery. We overbraked ourselves and, luckily, both of us were able to continue on and keep racing.
"Later on in the race, through traffic, Simona was able to get side-by-side with me. She did a hard, fair race with me there and I really appreciate that. We were able to hold on and, basically, I just kept running consistently lap after lap, trying to keep my tyres. In the last few laps, I decided to try and go for it and I think we were able to do the fastest lap, so I'm pretty happy.”
de Silvestro was also pretty happy following the race with a second-place run giving a seventh consecutive podium result for the #78 Team Stargate Worlds car. The 20-year old Swiss driver came into the race with a five-point lead over Edwards in the championship standings, but saw her fortunes improve dramatically as the lights went out to start the race.
From third place on the grid, she saw Edwards – who started second – have trouble getting off the line and quickly moved up to challenge Summerton for the lead. Edwards, meanwhile, lost several positions and was then involved in an incident with Tonis Kasemets and Frankie Muniz through Mid-Ohio's famed Keyhole turn on the opening lap. The accident removed Edwards from contention allowing de Silvestro to open her lead back to 16 points, with Summerton another six points back, with four races remaining in the season.
“My start was really good,” de Silvestro said, "I even caught Summerton a little bit. I don't know what happened to John. He went off the line pretty well, but then kind of stalled, so I don't really know what happened, but I could pass him. Then we went into turn two and I almost crashed into Jonathan because it was really slippery. We almost both went off, but we kind of kept it there.
“My pace was, I think, a little bit faster than Summerton's, so we could keep up with him and, when I lost a little bit of ground, I could kind of take it back. Lapped traffic played a little bit my way, but it was really difficult. I got next to him twice, but he kind of pinched me and it's better to finish second than to crash out and lose a lot of points. The whole race, I think, we were a little bit faster than him.”