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Zwolsman Recovers From Tough Start to Complete Cleveland Atlantic Sweep

It's tough to recover from a poor start on Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport road course, but Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) has proved to be so strong this season in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, that even a miscue at the green flag couldn't slow him down.

On Saturday, Turn 1 at Cleveland was kind to the Dutch rookie as he claimed the lead from second position and went on to victory. In Sunday's second race of this weekend's Atlantic Grand Prix of Cleveland, the famed first turn saw Zwolsman fall from the pole position as he had a problem with his car's gear shift. Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil), the series points leader heading into the weekend, assumed the lead in the first turn after Zwolsman's mechanical struggles, but it wouldn't be long before the 26-year-old, first-year sensation would make his way back to the front.

After falling back to fifth place, Zwolsman corrected the shifting problem and he began to attack the field, reclaiming the lead on Lap 12 and leading the final 20 laps for his third series victory and back-to-back wins this weekend on the 2.106-mile circuit. He wound up cruising to a 10.385-second win and his twin killing enabled him to once again seize control of the championship chase as he leaves Cleveland with a 169-162 advantage over Kasemets in the point standings.

Kasemets didn't hold the lead for long after his strong start as he took a tour off course on the just the fourth lap. He was able to return to the track but fell back to seventh position and spent the remainder of his race trying to make up the spots he lost. The 31-year-old native of Estonia wound up finishing fourth for his fifth consecutive top-five result this season.

Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) of Canada moved to the front of the field when Kasemets went off course and he held off Zwolsman for several laps before the hard-charging Condor Motorsports driver reclaimed the point. Bessette held on to second place for his second podium of the year and first since the season opener at Long Beach, when he trailed only his Polestar Racing Group teammate Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing).

German rookie hot shoe Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) started fifth but he took advantage of a good start to the race and improved to third place at the finish line, earning the bonus point for most improved positions in the race. After struggling in the first two events of the year, Wirth has now produced four straight podium finishes for the Brooks Associates Racing team.

Turn 1 claimed Legge, the talented British rookie racer, in Saturday's race as she failed to make it through the corner after making contact with two other cars. She made it through cleanly with the rest of the Atlantic field in today's race, starting from fourth position. The 24-year-old Polestar pilot earned her fourth top-five result of '05 as she took the checkered flag in fifth position.

Rookie Atlantic driver Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) and second-year series racer Al Unser III (#10 Racing) battled each other hard for the fourth consecutive race and kept the Cleveland fans on the edge of their seats until the very last lap. Dyson wound up finishing sixth while Unser was scored in seventh position, but the two got together shortly after Zwolsman took the checkered flag and Unser wound up getting airborne after hitting the grass in between the airport runways. Neither driver was injured in the incident.

David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Aviacsa/RocaAcero/Multigama/Martiga) of Mexico bounced back strong after failing to finish Saturday's race following contact with a lapped car. Martinez claimed eighth place, while rookie Leonardo Maia (#2 Konica Minolta), making his first Atlantic starts this weekend, brought home a ninth-place result for Jensen Motorsport. Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) crossed the finish line in 10th position for his third top-10 of the season.

Owner/driver Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction) of Dan Cobb Racing produced his first Yokohama Tire C2 Cup victory of the season as he led the five C2 class entries in today's event. Finishing 11th overall, Cobb has closed the gap to a single point, 145-144, in his pursuit of Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) in the category standings.

Both of the races from Cleveland will air on SPEED Channel on Saturday, July 9, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

After back-to-back doubleheader weekends, the Atlantic cars will be idle next weekend before returning to the track July 8-10 in Round 7 at the Molson Indy at Toronto's Exhibition Place.

Atlantic Race Notes

Zwolsman earned a bonus point for turning the fastest lap of today's race. He posted a mark of 1:07.468 on his 28th around Burke Lakefront Airport. With today's victory, Zwolsman becomes the first Atlantic driver in the series' eight-year history of competing at Cleveland to repeat as winner at Burke Lakefront Airport. Today's race was run without a caution flag and was completed in a record time of 36:46.826.

Quotes From the Top Three Finishers From Today's Race Follow:

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (Condor Motorsports): "I had a problem at the start. The no-lift switch was on so I couldn't shift gears. After the first corner, I played with the switch and it was working again. Then during the race, it was hard to be behind Bessette because I was losing a lot of downforce, so I couldn't get close enough. Overall, it was a pretty difficult race but I am happy because I had to get around guys on my own merit. (On the championship) It feels great to be in the fight for the championship but I take one race at a time and I will see where each race takes me."

ANTOINE BESSETTE (Unik Auto Design - Polestar Racing): "It was a great start for me. The first turn was alright, but I was afraid to see someone pop in front of me. During the race, I had some problems with the brakes. It probably comes from my accident yesterday. I still managed to put some pressure on Kasemets and when he touched the tires I got a good jump on him. But when my brakes really failed I had to stay behind. (On his finish) It feels really good to be back on the podium. It was about time! (On the removal of the barrel for the start) Removing the barrel at Turn 1 actually made the start safer."

ANDREAS WIRTH (Wurges Windows & Doors - Brooks Associates Racing): "I am really happy with two top three finishes in the same weekend. We struggled this weekend with the setup so I am happy to take the points for two third places. It is really important for the championship. The goal is to finish on the podium every race. (On the start) The first corner went great for me. I gained two positions. The start was definitely better without the cone."