* TONIS KASEMETS TO RUN IN SIX CHAMP CAR EVENTS WITH ROCKETSPORTS RACING IN 2006 EAST LANSING – With all the rumors that have been whispering throughout the paddock concerning Rocketsports Racing running two cars in 2006 and the possibility of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic runner-up, Tonis Kasemets, Rocketsports is proud to announce that a deal has been made to run the Estonian-American in six events in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford 2006 season.
Kasemets chose the long road to the USA and proved his worth recently by scoring the second place trophy in the Toyota Atlantic Champ Championship last year. Only 17 points separated him from first place. Additionally, he was awarded the 2005 “Toyota Atlantic Ohlins Shock Technician of the Year” trophy for his excellence in handling the many chores required on his entry, the #6 Flexovit Abrasives Products/MK Industries/TMI/ Red Line Oil/Team Tonis “Yellow Magic”, as he often refers to her (the car).
Hailing from Parnu, Estonia, Kasemets joined wife Ilona as they migrated to America over the course of two years so that Tonis could follow his dreams. The 32-year-old driver caught the racing ‘bug’ at an early age, from his Cross Country Rally Driver father Toomas; via ice racing in the Baltic States and go-karting. He began racing European Karts at the age 8.
After completing the 1995 European Championship in Opel Lotus, he made his move to the states. During the years of 1996 and 1997, Kasemets sat out of professional competition .....
...... while getting him and his family (wife Ilona, son Ayrton, and daughter Adry) settled. Kasemets got his first “break” in the U.S. in 1998 by purchasing a 1988 Reynard Formula Continental. He took command quickly by winning 8 out of 10 SCCA races. His next step to the top was his partnership with engineering legend Ove Olsson in a 1999 Formula Continental Carbir.
In 2000, Kasemets purchased a DSTP/Mygel Formula Continental to compete in the U.S. Formula Ford series, and took five race wins and four poles. 2002 and 2003 Kasemets entered the U.S. Formula Ford Championship driving in a Formula Zetec Van Diemen. Continuing to compete in the series in 2003, Kasemets was recognized as “One of the Top 10 Drivers in the WORLD to keep your eyes on.”
2004 marked the start of Kasemets’ road to Champ Car. Joining Brooks Racing to compete in a partial season in the Toyota Atlantic series, he would impress enough to earn a full-ride in the series in 2005. Kasemets earned his first front row starting position in only the second race of the ’05 schedule, in Monterrey, where he went on to finish on the podium for the first time with a second place finish. Subsequent to that great finish, Kasemets found himself on the podium again in Portland, this time claiming his first Toyota Atlantic Victory. In a double-header event at Portland last year, the landed his first pole position in the second race, sweeps the weekend and won again by a landslide. Kasemets went on to earn two more pole positions that year, totaling eight front row starts, six podium finishes (three wins, three second place finishes), out of 12 races.
“I would like to thank Paul Gentilozzi for the opportunity this season to drive for his Rocketsports Racing team,” said Kasemets. “I am extremely looking forward to climbing into the #18 Rocketsports Champ Car in Portland and working with the team. This has always been a dream for me to drive in the Champ Car World Series. It is a wonderful series, there are a lot of great drivers, challenging venues, the cars are so fun to drive, and it just has an overall great atmosphere. I will do the best job that I can with the main goal to have the best finishes that we can as a team in the #18 car. I would also like to thank my sponsors : Flexovit Abrasives, MX and TMI for all their support in my career and I know in return they would like to thank Paul for this opportunity to be exposed in such a high-profile sport.”
Driving the #18 entry for Rocketsports Racing, Kasemets is scheduled to make his Champ Car debut in Round Five of the 2006 Champ Car World Series in Portland, Oregon, a track that he dominated on last year in a Toyota Atlantic car. In addition to Portland, he is scheduled to run in at least five other events this year, including Cleveland, Toronto, Edmonton, Road America, and Mexico City.
“We are very proud to bring another car to the 2006 Champ Car field and give Tonis this opportunity,” said team owner Paul Gentilozzi. “He is an extremely talented guy who has worked very hard to get here, and truly deserves this opportunity. We are excited to have him join us and our honored to help him achieve his dream.”
The primary sponsor on the #18 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone will be Flexovit Abrasives, supporters of Kasemets’ racing career since 1998. The New York-based company is a manufacturer and marketer of high productivity abrasive products for the industrial, welding, and construction trades. In addition to manufacturing, Flexovit USA offers a complete range of technical and product support services for users of abrasives, and for distributors of Flexovit products.
Kasemets will team up with current driver of the #8 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Nicky Pastorelli, starting in Portland for the G.I. Joe’s Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, June 16-18. For more information on the team and driver, please check out www.rocketsportsracing.com and www.toniskasemets.com.