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Wirth Picks Up Atlantic Title

April 10, 2006|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

He crashed during provisional qualifying Friday, but Germany's Andreas Wirth put an exclamation point on a dominant weekend by winning from the pole Sunday in the season opener of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Wirth, driving for the four-car team owned by Gerald Forsythe, held off Brazilian Raphael Matos of the single-car Sierra Sierra Enterprises team by 0.840 of a second after 32 laps around the 1.97-mile circuit.

The 12-race series champion will win $2 million toward a Champ Car ride in 2007. The development series has attracted 29 drivers from 12 countries.

The top five were represented by five nations. Fifth-place Graham Rahal, 17, son of longtime driver-owner Bobby Rahal, led the Americans in the rejuvenated series' new Mazda-powered Swift chassis.

Among the top 11 finishers, nine were rookies, the exceptions being Wirth, a second-year Atlantic driver, and eighth-place finisher Alex Barron, a two-time winner in the Indy Racing League who made his first Atlantic start since winning the championship in 1997.

Wirth was second in last year's championship but missed the final two races with a back injury.

His Forsythe teammate, Canadian James Hinchcliffe, finished third and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud fourth.


Mike McCann led 18 of 28 laps, but he lost the lead two turns from the end when Ron Fellows drove his Cadillac CTS-V around McCann's Dodge Viper to win the Speed GT Championship sports car race.

Fellows made his move on the outside of Turn 9, and pole-sitter Tommy Archer's Viper followed in Turn 10 to take second place from McCann.

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