SEBRING, Fla., March 18 - One Andersen Walko Racing driver finished on the podium, two more were in the top 10 and the fourth ran as high as second in the Star Mazda season opener Friday at Sebring International Raceway.
The youngest of the four ended up with the best result, as 16-year-old series rookie Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio started sixth, blasted off at the drop of the green, and finished third in The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group No. 12.
Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. started eighth and got as high as fourth at the very end. Then his car's engine shut off several times, dropping the Aston, Pa. driver to sixth at the checkered in the SAI Hydraulics No. 23.
Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. also had some issues with the engine in his car, which is sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar. He started 11th and ended up ninth.
Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile started second and ran in that spot for a few laps. He inadvertently bumped the ignition switch in the Cristal Beer-sponsored No. 22, however, and when the engine died Bryan Sellers had nowhere to go and hit him in the rear. Donoso restarted and soldiered on for a few more laps but his car's rear suspension was bent from the contact, so he dropped out for a 39th-place finish in the 42-car field.
Ironically Rahal had the same problem as Donoso did, although the results were not nearly as costly. He only lost a few yards when he bumped his car's ignition switch too. With no full-course yellows he couldn't catch the eventual winner, polesitter Raphael Matos, who led all 20 laps, or the second-place finisher, Matt Jaskol, but it was still a rousing start for the series rookie and son of Bobby Rahal.
The start was definitely a thrilling moment for Rahal. Before the race he planned to go to the outside as the pack headed into turn one, which turned out to be a smart choice. "I didn't know what the other guys would do, but fortunately that was the place to go and I passed a bunch of guys right at the start," he said. "Outside of turn one it's not as grippy, but you can still run there."
Jaskol got by him and pushed him to fourth on lap two, but when Donoso had his troubles on lap four Rahal bounced back to third and he stayed there the rest of the way.
"I'm really proud of him," said his father, who is the grand marshal for tomorrow's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring American Le Mans Series race.
TV viewers can see the Star Mazda race on SPEED at 11 a.m. Eastern time on April 24.
Andersen Walko Racing is one of the top formula car teams in North America. Its office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa.
"That was definitely the best start I've ever had in racing. Before the race started I decided I wanted to go to the outside. I didn't know what the other guys would do, but fortunately that was the place to go and I passed a bunch of guys right at the start. Outside of turn one it's not as grippy, but you can still run there."
"The car ran well. I'm still looking at this as a two-year program, so this is a great start. I want to thank my dad, Bosch, Norwalk Furniture, Andersen Walko Racing, and everybody on the team. We're looking for one through four in the championship, and I think we can still get it. Everybody on the team works together very well. The engineers all work together, and that gives us an advantage in that sense.
"I bumped the ignition switch once and lost some ground, but luckily the car started back up again."
"About a third of the way through the race I started to leak oil. That caused the rear end to keep sliding out.'
"I wasn't surprised that there weren't any full-course yellows. It's a big track and there are a lot of places for guys to get off the track. If there had been a full-course yellow maybe I could have cooled my tires and caught those guys, but when I turned off the ignition switch I was lucky to just stay equal with them; no way was I going to catch them. So I just kept my pace and tried to run not too fast or too slow, and it paid off."
"Once in turn 15 there was lapped traffic in front of me, and a car shot off course right in front of me. I kept my foot in it, but that was quite interesting."
"On the last lap I was fourth but then the motor cut out. I know I didn't hit the ignition switch, but it just stopped. It sputtered a couple of times and then it turned on again, but I went from fourth to sixth because of it.
"The car was good in the left-handers but not the right-handers. For the first few laps it wouldn't turn at all. From laps five through nine or so the car was good, but from then on I had to deal with a lot of understeer. My left front tire was trashed, but I think that was caused by the understeer.
"I was surprised there were no full-course yellows."
"We had a good start, but then we started to fall back. In sixth gear my car sputtered a lot. The no-lift shifter didn't work, and that didn't help either.
"Two guys spun in front of me once but I was able to get around them, so that wasn't too bad.
"We had a good car. We just didn't have a good motor today."
"I was adjusting the bars and I touched the ignition switch and turned the car off by mistake. Bryan Sellers was behind me and he didn't know I was having a problem, and we tangled in turn 16. It broke my rear suspension. I ran for a few laps after that, but it was too bad so I had to drop out."
Here you can find out about our developments and experiences in coaching and engineering