FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (December 17, 2007) -- The John Walko Racing team rolled in to Firebird International Raceway with no experience at the facility but plenty of expectations. Driver Mike Hill scored an impressive sweep at the previous event, scoring two wins at Buttonwillow, but had never raced at Firebird either.
In addition to the lack of previous data to work with from the facility, the lack of a practice day preceding the event meant the team would have to come off of the trailer strong and be able to adapt to the track and conditions quickly. With the Star Mazda Winter Series running practice, qualifying and a race each day there would be little room for error.
According to John Walko the team was confident in their preparations and that of their driver but they were also dealt an additional variable on Saturday morning.
"It was another good weekend. We would have liked to have run on Friday as we were there and prepared but to no avail. To make matters more interesting on Saturday, we were met with a wet session first thing in the morning. Mike proved that he came ready as well holding down the top spot by a few seconds."
The rest of the weekend proved to be a test of the team's ability to adjust to a constant series of changing weather conditions and track conditions. Even with a dry track, the bumps and grittiness of the surface was akin to street racing.
"We had little time to make many changes but we were fortunate enough to have excellent street course and wet set-up data to work from. Mike provided good feedback and adjusted quickly, setting out to an early lead on Saturday. He later had a pretty good dice for the lead, but the race ended up finishing under yellow with us in second. A good second place finish there with little testing or time to rub on the car much to tune for the track."
Sunday was more of the same as the day started with everything from wet to drying conditions. With the rains stopped, the sun starting to shine and the race ready to roll the team decided to take their chances on slicks.
"It was a wet morning leaning towards drying and we did get the morning practices on slicks. By race time the sun was coming out and the track was starting to dry so we made the call to go with slicks. During the pace lap it started to rain tough and we were one of the only front runners on slicks. Mike put on a great drive and came home third, not only finishing on slicks but beating most of the rest of the field that was on rain tires. By the end of the race he was running times within a half second of the leaders which was really impressive."
The Gilroy, California driver looks to the final round at Phoenix International Raceway with his eye on a potential Championship after scoring two wins, a second and a third in the first four races. JWR has a second car available for drivers interested in joining the team for the final race weekend at Phoenix. Drivers interested in discussing the final Winter Series event and/or winter testing should contact John Walko Racing as soon as possible at email@example.com
"It was a really good weekend. We were surprised by the track to a degree initially but it turned out to be a great test of all that racing involves. We had a commanding lead in the first race but it was really the first dry session so I was trying some different lines and got caught and passed only to have the race end under yellow on the next lap. In the second race we went with a dry set-up but it rained again during the race which made every turn a gut check and a challenge! I still finished third, keeping a good pace despite being one of the only cars on slicks. We worked our tails off all weekend to get the car to work right in all the different conditions. The crew was fantastic again and I was able to learn so much working with everyone. I definitely drove to my abilities as well so I was really proud of that."
John Walko -Engineer for Mike Hill
"Mike was unbelievable. Sunday in particular in the rain was a really impressive drive. I was actually more impressed by that drive than the two wins at Buttonwillow. It was fun to watch, it was that good. Mike is a talented driver, and this event was a true test of his abilities in a variety of conditions as well as his ability to adapt to street race-like track conditions."
"This Winter Series has turned out to be really good. It is so much more productive than testing, to get out there and run in a race environment is a tremendous way to learn. I hope more people sign up and do this next year as it is just a great off season tool."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (November 21, 2007) -- The Star Mazda Winter Series kicked off with a two race event at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California. JWR wasted little time in establishing themselves as a favorite in the series, dominating the weekend with two wins by newcomer Mike Hill.
The Gilroy, California native proved to be a quick learner qualifying second for each of the two races in his first outing with the team, not to mention his first race ever in the Star Mazda car. Team owner John Walko attributed the success to many factors including the preparation of everyone involved.
"The team came prepared and totally focused this weekend and we executed our plan well. We had actually started on Tuesday with the seat fitting and had time to complete everything we planned well before being on track for Thursday testing. It went very smooth, just the way we planned it."
Hill was quick from the very start and continued to improve in each session resulting in front row qualifying positions on each of the two race days.
"Mike's input was right on; he was clean and consistent and easy to work with. His relationship with Gord Bentley and Speed Secrets was a huge factor as well as he was already willing and able to listen to instruction and translate that in to on-track results."
Once the racing was under way, Hill pounced early. Despite having to take evasive action in the opening corners, dropping all four corners off the track and falling to third, Hill proceeded to take the lead by the sixth turn and never look back. Along the way to the checkered flag Hill lapped the field.
The results of the second race were the same with JWR and Hill scoring their second victory of the weekend. However, this race involved a more patient, measured approach.
"In the first race Mike dominated, not just winning but lapping the entire field. But in the second race he also demonstrated that he is capable of driving a smart, calculated race. He settled in to second shadowing the leader and staying in tight contact while waiting for an opportunity. As soon as the leader made a mistake he was able to grab the top spot and hold onto it for the win."
For the team, it was a well deserved, successful weekend.
"It was one of those weekends where we just couldn't make a wrong adjustment to the car. We really needed it too -- it was a great shot in the arm for everyone on the team coming so soon after the close of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship series. This was a big commitment to run these west coast winter races and everyone from the team to the driver responded perfectly. We are all looking forward to the next round in Arizona coming up soon."
"I couldn't imagine this could be any better of a first effort with a new team and a new series. The crew did a great job and they worked hard all weekend. I communicated well with John and everyone else and the car handled magnificently all weekend. They did a great job! We had a great car all weekend and I was able to drive smart and safe and bring it home in one piece!"
John Walko -- Engineer for Mike Hill
"Mike did a tremendous job considering that he was dealing with so many things for the first time. He did one test at Buttonwillow previously but on a totally different configuration and not in race conditions. It was also his first time working with our team and his first time in a Star Mazda race. Throw in all of those factors and it makes the wins all that more impressive."
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