Wickens back on home soil

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

BOWMANVILLE -- Robert Wickens has spent the past two seasons travelling the time-worn path that is the road to the pinnacle of motorsports -- Formula One .

Along the way, the 20-year-old Toronto native has crossed more borders than the Orient Express.

Yesterday, however, Wickens was back racing on home soil for the first time since 2007 in the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda that is part of the Mobil 1 Grand Prix of Mosport this weekend.

"Right now I am based in (the United Kingdom) driving in the Formula Two series for the Red Bull junior program," he said after his first practice in the No. 18 Genoa Racing Swift 016-A.

Wickens started out the 2009 season like gangbusters, picking up victories in his first two races at Valencia, Spain.

While he still holds down second place in the F-2 championship, trailing teammate Andy Soucek by 22 points, Wickens admits he hasn't been able to reproduce his fast start through the latter stages of the season.

"We still are within striking distance of the title," he said. "If I can get there, I think my next goal is to be as a reserve driver in F-1."

Wickens is all too aware that in the cut-throat business of open wheel racing in Europe, it is results, and only results, that get a young driver noticed.

If you don't win, you don't race. It's as simple as that.

"Red Bull has been a great sponsor," he said. "But I know that if I am to keep my job with them I have to get some more wins."

With a break in the F-2 schedule, the chance came up for him to race in the Atlantics at Mosport. It is something that gives him some treasured home time with his family and some equally treasured seat time in a race car.

"Racing is all about being on the track," he said. "Any time you get the opportunity to be in a race car is good."

And it's not like he's a stranger to the Atlantics. Wickens was rookie of the year as an 17-year-old in that series and finished third in points while driving for Forsythe Championship Racing.

Yesterday in his shake-down laps at Mosport, he was within 6/10ths of a second of the fast lap of the day completing the 10-turn, 4-km permanent road course in one minute 11.084 seconds.

"I was pleased to be that close, getting into a car that I hadn't been in for a long time," he said.

Today, the sleek, high-horsepowered sports cars of the American Le Mans Series take to the track with qualifying set for 4 p.m. The Atlantics will qualify at 12:05 p.m. to get set for their race tomorrow at 11:55 a.m.

Short tracts

There is a new Swiss Miss in the Atlantics series this season with Simona De Silveresto, a 20-year-old from Thun, Switzerland, leading the championship with four wins this season in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Cardinal Technologies Mazda ... Today will see the first appearance in Canada of the new Corvette C6-R in the ALMS GT2 series.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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