Jonathan Summerton returned to Victory Circle for the first time since August 2008 as he brought Genoa Racing its first Atlantic win since 1994 in the first race of the Mazda Formula X presented by Cooper Tires double-header at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday afternoon.
Summerton started the #19 machine from the pole position and led from lights to flag en route to a 7.334secs victory over Simona de Silvestro. It was Summerton's third career Atlantic Championship victory, but his first since winning the second race of a double-header at Road America last year. Meanwhile, it was Genoa Racing's first win since 1994, when Greg Ray drove to Victory Lane at the Milwaukee Mile.
“I never dropped a wheel or anything, so lucky for me,” Summerton said, “The car was great all the time. We had a good start. The track was a lot slipperier than I think all of us expected, so the first lap was a little crazy. Of course, me not having anybody to reference off, it was a little loose and a little bit hairy at times. By the second lap, I was used to everything and just put my head down and tried driving away.”
de Silvestro took her second consecutive podium result with a second-place run aboard the #78 Stargate Worlds car, following up her victory last time out at Miller Motorsports Park. It was de Silvestro's third career podium result in Atlantic competition and moved her into a 47-47 tie for the series points lead with John Edwards after three of twelve races.
“It was a little bit of a hectic race for me," the Swiss driver admitted, "My start wasn't the greatest, so [Frederic] Vervisch got by me in the first corner, so I was third, and I was trying to keep up with them. Then, my gearbox was playing a little bit badly and my second gear got stuck in turn ten and I went through the grass. Borja [Garcia] got me there, but my car was really good so I could pass him again, and then Vervisch had a little bit of a problem. I think Team Stargate Worlds did a really great job, and I'm just happy to get the points today.”
Heralded rookie Borja Garcia earned his first career Atlantic Championship podium with a third-place performance in the #6 Condor Motorsports entry. Expectations were high for Garcia at the start of the season after he was quickest in pre-season testing at Palm Beach International Raceway, and he finally delivered the best battle of the race, which also included Newman Wachs Racing team-mates Edwards and Markus Niemela.
“I'm really happy,” Garcia noted, “After the first two races, I had a lot of bad luck, especially in the races and finding the set-up. Now, I think I'm in the correct line for the set-up. It's my first podium and I'm really happy to be here for my team, and also the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship. I need to work really hard because, after the first test in Palm Beach, the car also worked really good but, after the first and second race, I didn't find the correct set-up, Today, the car is good, not perfect, but I think the key to my race was the start, and I did a really good start.”
Niemela, the defending series champion, came home fourth for his best result of the season in the #1 NWR machine, while Edwards completed the top five in the #36 sister car after starting eighth. He also earned the championship point and $1000 'Hard Charger' bonus for improving the most positions from start to finish.
"It feels nice to finish up front, but I am not too happy with the end result," Niemela commented, "I would have been faster but overtaking at this track is really difficult and I blew my only chance to overtake Garcia heading into turn one at the start. The car is not bad and we don't have to do any major changes for tomorrow, but the start will be critical again. If I can get off the line quickly we'll be fine tomorrow."