Next season's Atlantic Championship looks set to blend new and traditional venues as its prepares for life under the guidance of new owner Ben Johnston, it has been revealed.
The 2009 schedule represents a substantial departure from previous Atlantic schedules but, according to insiders, will take the series to many new and important markets.
The eleven-weekend schedule features five venues that hosted the series in 2008, four that have hosted Atlantic events at some point in the past and two facilities that will feature Atlantics for the first time. Owing to the series being sanctioned by the International Motor Sports Association [IMSA], seven weekends will be shared with the American Le Mans Series, but the Atlantic Championship will also be the featured attraction on three other weekends, as the 2009 series will get underway in March alongside the new Johnston-owned Green Prix USA initiative at Savannah's Hutchinson Island facility.
“We believe our 2009 schedule is full of outstanding and challenging events for our drivers and teams, in markets that are valuable to all of our sponsor partners,” championship president Vicki O'Connor insisted.
“With IMSA as our sanctioning body and the outstanding growth the American Le Mans Series has been experiencing for the past few years, it obviously made a lot of sense to share a majority of our weekends with American Le Mans, but we are excited to start the year in Savannah with Green Prix USA, and also feel that the three 'feature' events have the potential to be great for our drivers, teams and sponsors.”
After opening the season in April for the past five seasons, the 2009 campaign gets underway on the weekend of 15 March, running alongside the inaugural Green Prix USA event on a 1.98-mile road course situated on beautiful Hutchinson Island. It will be the first professional auto race held on the track in more than ten years, although the event is currently subject to circuit homologation.
Just one weekend later, the series makes its way a few hundred miles to the south to Sebring International Raceway, site of the legendary American Le Mans Series season-opening 12 Hours. The Central Florida facility has been a popular testing destination for Atlantic teams for several years, but the 2009 event will be the first race for the series there since the 1988 East Coast Atlantic Racing season finale.
Round three returns the series to Miller Motorsports Park, which hosted its first Atlantic event in September, while the weekend of 14 June marks the first feature event, as the championship returns to Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park, which also hosted its first Atlantic race this year. The event may also become the series' lone double-header of the season.
Mid-July sees the Atlantic runners rejoin the ALMS for a race at the historic Lime Rock Park, the first since 1992, while, one weekend later, the series heads for another new facility, the Autobahn Country Club in the Chicago suburb of Joliet, which will host the Atlantics - subject to circuit homologation - on a 3.56-mile full circuit created by Miller designer Alan Wilson.