Team Australia has won the first championship of its short history with Simon Pagenaud claiming the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship at the final round of the season in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin today.
For his efforts Pagenaud wins $US2million to put towards securing a drive in the 2007 Champ Car World Series. He also joins the prestigious list of Atlantic series champions, including AJ Allmendinger, Buddy Rice, Michael Andretti and Gilles Villeneuve.
Pagenaud was assured the title when on lap six his championship rival Graham Rahal suffered electrical problems and was forced to retire.
Pagenaud was leading Rahal for third position at the time, but the retirement of Rahal allowed the Frenchman to attack James Hinchclifffe in second place. Pagenaud passed Hinchcliffe on lap seven, but Hinchcliffe then made contact with the back of Pagenaud's car.
The heavy contact damaged the rear of the Team Australia Swift, leading Pagenaud to retire from the race. Although the opportunity for Pagenaud's eighth podium finish of the year was dashed, the main goal of the championship was assured.
Pagenaud's Team Australia Atlantic team-mate Michael Patrizi was on a charge in the early stages of today's race but also failed to finish the 18-lap race.
Patrizi started 22nd but was amazingly up to 14th place on the first lap. Patrizi was inside the top 10 by lap seven and then seventh at a restart after a caution period on lap nine.
The Australian dragged his way to fifth and was racing with the cars of Ryan Lewis and Colin Fleming when approaching turn one Danilo Dirani propped under brakes.
Left with nowhere to go, Patrizi clipped Lewis and launched into the air, through the gravel trap and out of the race with suspension damage. With the field compressed from the caution period and the rapid pace Patrizi was showing, it put paid to what could have been an amazing result for the young West Australian driver.
Despite both drivers not finishing the race, it was a memorable day for the Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Atlantic outfit with the championship win and the great speed shown by both drivers. The morning warm-up was testament to the speed of the green and gold Aussie Vineyards cars, with Pagenaud and Patrizi first and sixth respectively.
Jonathan Bomarito won today's final Atlantic race of the season ahead of Raphael Matos and Andres Wirth.
"The team has done a great job all year and this is a great feeling," said Pagenaud.
"It's not the way I'd like to win it but the job is done now. Now I can think about Champ Car and next season.