AWR Drivers move up the ladder
Andersen Walko Racing's four full-time drivers from the 2005 season have some exciting plans for 2006.
The team’s two drivers with the best results in the Star Mazda Championship, presented
by Goodyear, last year will both advance to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship presented by Yokohama in 2006.
Yesterday Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa., who finished second in the Star Mazda championship last year and earned its Rookie of the Year award while driving for Anderwn Walko Racing(AWR), said “As of now we have made the decision to run the Champ Car Atlantic series for 2006. We have not signed anything yet, but hope fully in the next few weeks we should be able to announce which team we’ll be running with and all of the details.”
Pccorari broke the track record at Arizona’s Firebird Int’l Raceway in November while testing an Atlantic car with Brooks Associates Racing.
Graham Rahal, who finished fourth in the Star Mazda Championship last year driving for AWR, has already announced his plans to compete in the Atlantic series.
The New Albany, Ohio driver will run with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, and yesterday he announced the car would be sponsored by Gehl, the Wisconsin-based light construction and agricultural equipment manufacturer. Last year, Rahal became the youngest driver ever to win a pro StarMazda race when he was victorious at Portland lnternational Raceway at the age of 16. He’ll revisit that track this year in the Atlantic series.
The Atlantic SeaSon opener is April 9 on tbe streets of Long Beach, CA.
Rahal will start his first Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida on Jan. 28 too. The 17-year-old is one of four drivers of the Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 Cup No. 74 that set the fastest time for the GT class in testing at Daytona earlier this month.
Another ex-AWR driver, Adam Pecorari, Robbie's brother, who ran with the team in the Formula Ford Zetec series in 2004, is also expected to compete at Daytona. He drives a Rehagen Racing Mustang Cobra SVT in the Grand-Am Cup Series.
Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile has moved on to the new-generation USAC Silver Crown division. He is the driver of a Cristal Beer-sponsored Riley for Racing Teams Inc.,which is owned by Eliseo Salazar and Johnny Vance. His 2006 season opener is this weekend at Phoenix InternationalRaceway. He finished ninth in Star Mazda points last year with AWR.
AWR's Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Il. will drive in the lndy Racing League's Indy Pro series (formerly the Menards IInfniti Pro series) in 2006 as a member of the team that won the lndy Racing League lndy Car championship for the last two years, Andretti Green Racing.
Klein drove for AWR in both 2004 and 2005. He was the Star Mazda series' most improved driver of 2004, and he finished 13th in that series last year. His best finish was second in the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California in October. His 2006 Indy Pro season opner will be March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.
"We're proud of all of our drivers, and we hope that the lessons they learned while running with us have been instrumental in their success" said AWR's Dan Andersen, "Our drivers for 2006 - Brad Jaeger, Gerardo Bonilla and Ramiro Scuncio - have some pretty big shoes to fill, but we'll help them as much as we can.''
The 2006 Star Mazda seasont opener is March 17 at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.
Robbie Pecorari won this year’s Racing for Kids®/ Star Mazda Pro Series Driver Performance Award. The award goes to the top performing Racing For Kids® racer in the Star Mazda Series races at Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway tracks.
Racing For Kids®, founded in 1989 in Detroit, is an international charity dedicated to using motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children and the institutions that care for them.
As part of the program, Racing For Kids ® drivers visit sick children in children’s hospitals wherever they race. These driver celebrity visits are an important part of each child’s recovery therapy.
The Racing for Kids®/ Star Mazda Pro Series Driver Performance Award is given to the driver who earns the most points from the aforementioned two races: Sept 30 at Road Atlanta and Oct. 15 at Mazda Raceway (Monterey, CA).
For those two races, points were awarded on a sliding scale for first to 15th place finishers. Winners received 20 points, second place 18 with two point intervals to sixth place where the intervals declined by one point. A 15th place finish received one point.
Pecorari took the award when he won the Road Atlanta race and finished third in the Mazda Raceway event. Rahal took second in both races. Hinchcliffe won the Mazda Raceway event, but took fifth at Road Atlanta.
Pecorari and Hinchcliffe also won $1000 each for their race wins, receiving $500 of that personally with $500 going to the Children’s Health Care of Atlanta (formerly Scottish Rite) and Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA.
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."
SEBRING, Fla., March 17 - Star Mazda qualifying was rained out Thursday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway, and the grid for tomorrow afternoon's race was established by the fastest lap each driver recorded during the three official practice sessions: two in the dry on Wednesday or the third one in the wet Thursday morning.
Although it is St. Patrick's Day it turned out the luck of the South Americans was stronger than the luck of the Irish, at least as far as the Star Mazda grid went. With the starting line-up set by practice times Brazilian Raphael Matos got the pole, but Andersen Walko Racing's own Pablo Donoso, who is from Chile, will be right beside him in second place. It was an especially stellar showing for Donoso, who is making his first Star Mazda start and competing in his first race ever at this historic road course in central Florida.
The three other Andersen Walko Racing drivers did very well too. Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio will start sixth with Aston, Pa.'s Robbie Pecorari lined up right behind him in eighth. Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. had to switch to his back-up car but he was fast in it on Thursday morning and he'll start 12th when the green drops Friday on the 42-car field at 2:40 p.m.
Matos' fastest lap was a 2:00.416 (110.617 mph) while Donoso's fastest lap was a 2:00.879 (110.193 mph). Rahal's was a 2:01.446 (109.678 mph); Pecorari's was a 2:01.703 (109.447 mph) and Klein's was a 2:02.285 (108.926 mph).
Both of the drivers on the front row set their fastest laps during the second practice session. Rahal was fast right out of the box, recording his fastest lap in the first session, in which he was second only to Matos. Pecorari's fastest lap was set in the dry on Wednesday in the second session but he topped everybody Thursday morning in the wet session. Klein posted his fastest lap in the wet session, which was third-fastest of the day, and there's no telling how fast he can go in that car in the dry.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is for dry conditions.
The race is slated to be 45 minutes long. It will be taped for later coverage on SPEED.
Donoso's entry is sponsored by Cristal Beer. Rahal's carries the logo of the Bobby Rahal Automotive Group. Pecorari's primary sponsor is SAI Hydraulics. Klein is backed by Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar.
Andersen Walko Racing's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa. For more information please see www.andersenwalko.com, www.starmazda.com, www.americanlemans.com and www.restartcommunications.com or call (973) 244-1900.
"I'm happy with our car's set-up. We will have a good car for the race tomorrow. The track is great. I'm really happy to be here and to be able to drive on such a famous track. Second starting position is great for my first Star Mazda race. I'm really pleased. Eliseo [Salazar] has been helping with the set-up and coaching me on the radio. He is a great help."
"The decision to set the field by practice times is for the best, even though it was against some people's wishes. The conditions this morning in the rain were bad; the rain tires can't take the big puddles here, and with all the spray and the wheel spin, it was a good decision to forgo qualifying in the wet. Sixth is worse than what I thought I'd qualify in the dry. I think I would have been higher. There are a few cars faster than us, but we've consistently been one of the fastest cars here, so I'm confident going into the race. If we can get by a few guys we have a chance for a win or a podium, for sure."
"I had some problems traffic-wise in practice, but I'm feeling pretty confident about the race. We have a good race set-up on our car, and I think we'll be right there. The car got better and better as the practice sessions wore down, so if we can stay out of trouble, we should be right there at the end."
"We had a handling issue that we couldn't figure out, so we went to the back-up car for the rain session this morning and we were third-quick. Unfortunately we're not starting where I'd hope we'd be, but I think we'll do fine tomorrow. I know we'll have a good car for the race. We know we're quick in the rain, and we can only go up higher in the dry. I'll just have to put my head down and go. I have to concentrate on not making any mistakes, staying out of trouble, and not burning up my tires."
FAIRFIELD, N.J., Feb. 25 - Thanks to an aggressive off-season testing schedule, all four of Andersen Walko Racing's Star Mazda drivers say they've never felt so prepared for the start of any racing season.
The team completed its pre-season testing program last Monday with a two-day session at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park in Braselton, Ga. That was preceded by tests at the team's home track, BeaveRun Motorsport Complex near Pittsburgh in November; Carolina Motorsport Park in Kershaw, S.C. in December; and two days on the long course at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. in January.
Team owners Dan Andersen and John Walko are excited too, because they know their four drivers - Jonathan Klein, Robbie Pecorari, Graham Rahal and Pablo Donoso - are very, very good. Two other drivers who plan to run selected Star Mazda events with the team this year - driver coach Mike Andersen and Doug Prendeville - are certainly no slouches behind the wheel either.
"It's clear to me that we're going to have a battle among all four of our guys at just about every event, because they're all very good," Dan Andersen said. "All four of the regular drivers were very close in times at all of the test days. They ran times which would have put them at the front of the grid at Road Atlanta and Sebring last year."
Klein was the series' most improved driver of the year for 2004. Pecorari, a Skip Barber Pro Series grad and one of the hottest things going in go-karts; Rahal, a Formula BMW driver and the son of racing legend Bobby Rahal; and Donoso, the protege of Eliseo Salazar, will all be rookies this year in the Star Mazda series. Rahal just turned 16; Klein and Pecorari are 17, and Donoso is 20.
In addition to its hot driver line-up, another reason AWR is optimistic about its chances this year has to do with the continuity of the team's personnel. Although racing is a very fluid business, virtually all of AWR's team members will return in 2005, and the team has even added a few more people too.
AWR is one of only a few teams that will have an experienced engineer dedicated solely to each of its race cars.
"In addition to John Walko, our team's chief engineer who will oversee everything, each of our four cars will have its own engineer this year," Andersen explained. "Mark Glenwood, who was one of the Star Mazda factory team's engineers last year, will concentrate on Klein's car. Highly respected veteran open-wheel engineer Glenn Phillips will be the engineer for Robbie Pecorari. Steve Dreizler and Eric Langbein, both of who have been with us for two years, will each be responsible for a car too. Dreizler will concentrate on Rahal's car, while Langbein will work on Donoso's car."
Each engineer will have faster access to data generated by the team's Pi data acquisition system too, thanks to a new wireless computer network in the team transporter that will speed up downloads and the entire data acquisition process. "Kate Gundlach, an engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh who has been with us for two years now, will download all the data and help each engineer and driver compare the results," Andersen explained. "This will help us save time, which is very important on any race weekend."
Andersen added that the team spent "at least $50,000" on additional pit equipment over the winter.
"We've made a lot of capital improvements, which should make us more efficient," he said. "We're serious!"
All four drivers echoed his enthusiasm and attitude.
"I've tested this winter more than any in the past," Klein said. "The team has had time to go through the cars completely and refine them nicely, which will pay off as the season progresses. Given all the testing and experience from last year, I look to finish in the top five throughout the year, and obviously I want to spend as much time on the podium as possible."
"The competition will be even stiffer than it was last year, so running up front consistently will be the key," Klein noted. "Qualifying well will continue to be important, and it was one of the things we concentrated on improving this winter."
"I'm happy to be starting my second year in the Star Mazda series because I believe it's the top junior formula in North America. Andersen Walko Racing should be quite a presence in the series."
"I'll be going into the new season with a new engineer, Mark Glenwood, who proved at the Atlanta test that he'll be a big help throughout the season. He brings lots of knowledge and experience with Pro Formula Mazda to the table. I enjoy working with him a lot, and look forward to the entire year with Mark, Scott Gates, John Walko and everyone else on the team. Dan Andersen and John Walko have put together a potent program this year."
Pecorari was very upbeat about the things the team accomplished in its pre-season testing too.
"Pre-season testing went very well," Pecorari said. "Last year in the Skip Barber series there was a lot of track time but not too much time to test the cars. I've only driven in two Star Mazda races before, so it was nice to be able to actually test and try some new things out for this upcoming season."
"This year I believe that AWR will be able to bring home a championship," Pecorari added. "My three teammates have been fast in pre-season testing, and I think any one of us can win a race. As for me, I'll be trying to win as much as possible, but if not, then to stay consistently up front and eventually win the championship."
Rahal is excited about his prospects too. "Going into the 2005 season, I have never felt so prepared, excited and confident that our team as a whole can accomplish what I believe we can this year," he said. "I've learned so much in pre-season testing with the help of my fellow teammates. Our team will push each other harder than any other team, and the results should show."
"My goal this year is to win the championship," Rahal added. "This won't be an easy task. I have had one year in cars total, which isn't many hours, but because I've been fast in testing I believe I have a chance to win this year. If I can't win the championship, someone else on our team should win it. The drivers push each other, the engineers work together, and there are no owners possibly better. We have the team to beat in 2005!"
Donoso said he learned a lot over the winter too.
"The most important thing I learned in pre-season testing was to get acclimated with the car set-up and to get familiarized with the team," he said. "They did a great job, giving me a car capable of doing fast times. You always want to do more testing, but I feel I'm ready to win at the season opener at Sebring."
"My primary goals this year are to win races and to be in the top five in the championship," Donoso added. "My biggest challenge this year personally will be to adapt to racing in the United States for the first time. The Star Mazda series is a great series; by far it's promoted the best of any series I've seen. I think Andersen Walko Racing has to be one of the favorites to win the championship, hopefully with me! I will have the help of Eliseo Salazar, who has won races in many different series, including Indy cars. His knowledge of American racing and the different circuits will help me a lot."
The 11-race Star Mazda series, which is presented by Goodyear, will begin with a 45-minute contest on Friday afternoon, March 18 that is a support event to the prestigious Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the keystone of the American Le Mans Series and the event that historically attracts the largest crowd of any road race in America each year.
All of the Star Mazda races will be televised on SPEED, which will double its air time for the series by producing one-hour shows rather than the half-hour shows it broadcast in the past.
AWR is based in Fairfield, N.J. and North Versailles, Pa. Klein resides in Long Grove, Ill.; Pecorari is from Aston, Pa.; Rahal lives in New Albany, Ohio and Donoso hails from Santiago, Chile.
FAIRFIELD, N.J., Dec. 11 - Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) announced today that Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. and Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile will join Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. and Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio on its squad of drivers for the 2005 Star Mazda Series presented by Goodyear.
With today's announcement AWR rounds out its four-driver Star Mazda lineup, as Klein and Rahal signed with the team for 2005 in November. Team co-owners Dan Andersen and John Walko did not rule out running additional drivers on occasion too.
AWR is one of the most successful formula car teams in America. It won the Formula Ford Zetec team championship this year with drivers Andrew Prendeville and Adam Pecorari, Robbie's brother. In addition, Klein campaigned an AWR entry in the Star Mazda series in 2004 and earned that series' Most Improved Driver award.
Klein will be a sophomore in Star Mazda in 2005. Robbie Pecorari has driven in two Star Mazda races in the past but he, Donoso and Rahal will all be rookies in that series in 2005.
Klein and Robbie Pecorari are 17; Rahal will turn 16 on Jan. 4 and Donoso just turned 20.
Robbie Pecorari drove an AWR entry in the Star Mazda series' season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. in October. He qualified fourth, only seven-tenths of a second off the pole. Unfortunately he was hit from behind by another competitor at the start of the race, suffering left-rear suspension damage which forced him to retire from that event.
He also drove an AWR entry in a Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., in September. He qualified fifth for that event, ran in third for most of the race, and took the checkered in fourth place.
The younger of the Pecorari brothers also ran in two Formula Ford Zetec races in AWR livery at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, finishing fifth and eighth. He also competed in two Zetec races for AWR at Road Atlanta in 2003, qualifying fourth and fifth.
He amazed his fellow AWR teammates at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. this May when he stepped into one of the team's Formula SCCA cars at the last minute to finish second in one race and win the other one in a weekend doubleheader.
A senior at Garnet Valley High School south of Philadelphia, Pecorari won the Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow Formula Dodge national championship scholarship award for 2004. He did the full Skip Barber national season this year too, winning one race at Mosport Int'l Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada and finishing fifth in that championship.
He earned the national ICA (100cc direct drive) karting point championship in 2003, recording five ICA victories in the Snap-on.com Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow national circuit. He began his karting career at age eight and won events on the national circuit in the Cadet category before moving into the Yamaha Junior and 80cc Junior Shifter classes and then on to the ICA and ICC divisions.
Pecorari's Star Mazda car will carry decals advertising SAI Hydraulics, J&J; Racing, Grand Prix Distributing and Lucky Designs in 2005 in addition to AWR.
"I think it's going to take consistency to win the Star Mazda championship," Pecorari said. "I'll try to win, but my goal will be a podium finish at every race and a top five at the worst."
"The way the team worked last year was great," he added. "We'll all work hard and try to help each other out and win some races. Jonathan and I helped each other out when we ran together this year, and hopefully Graham and Pablo can help out too."
Although he'll be a rookie in Star Mazda, Pecorari noted that he's driven on most of the races on the 12-date schedule while competing in Skip Barber events. "St. Petersburg will be new for everyone, and Watkins Glen will be new for me," he noted. "The ovals will be completely new; I've never been on an oval before, so that will be interesting."
Donoso is the son of driver Jorge Donoso and the protege of Formula 1 and IndyCar star Eliseo Salazar, the most famous racer from his native country, Chile. His campaign will be sponsored in part by Salazar's long-time sponsor, Cristal Beer.
Donoso competed in the European World Series by Nissan last year as the teammate to Brazilian Formula 1 driver Enrique Bernoldi, who is currently a test driver for the BAR F1 team. Donoso also ran the World Series Light series in Europe in 2003, winning one race.
In 2002 Donoso finished second in the Formula Renault Argentina national championship, a series in which he also competed in 2001. He also has experience in Formula BMW Junior events in Europe.
Like most of his AWR teammates, Donoso started his racing career in karting. He was the national champion of Chile in 1996. The following year he competed in karting events in Argentina, posting two podium finishes in four events.
The Star Mazda series is sanctioned by IMSA and televised on the SPEED cable TV network. Its 2005 schedule, which is subject to change, is as follows:
1. March 18, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Fla. (with ALMS)
2. April 2, St. Petersburg temporary street course, St. Petersburg, Fla. (with IRL)
3. April 17, Road Atlanta, Braselton, Ga. (with ALMS)
4. May 21, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (with ALMS)
5. June 11, Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, N.Y. (with Grand American)
6. July 3, Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway, Fountain, Colo. (with USAC)
7. July 16, Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. (with ALMS)
8. July 30, Portland Int'l Raceway, Portland, Ore. (with ALMS)
9. Aug. 20, Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (with ALMS)
10. Sept. 3, Mosport Int'l Raceway, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (with ALMS)
11. Sept. 30, Road Atlanta, Braselton, Ga. (with ALMS)
12. Oct. 15, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (with ALMS).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 20 - Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) had a good showing but mixed results in the Star Mazda series' season finale last Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The highlight of the weekend came after the race when one of its drivers, Jonathan Klein, walked away with the series' "Most Improved Driver" award for 2004.
Klein, of Long Grove, Ill., had the best finish of the two AWR drivers at Laguna. He placed sixth in the event, which was presented by Goodyear.
His teammate would rather remember qualifying. Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. qualified fourth, only seven-tenths of a second off the pole. Another competitor hit him from behind in turn one at the start of the 28-lap/45-minute race, however. The contact broke Pecorari's car's left-rear suspension and he had to drop out, ending up 38th in the final rundown.
Klein's day went the other way. Before he finished sixth he qualified 15th in the very competitive, 40-car field. His best lap in quals took just 1.4 seconds longer than polewinner Michael McDowell's did in getting around the challenging, 2.238-mile road course.
Luis Schiavo, last year's champion, won the race over this year's champion, McDowell. Brian Frisselle, Scott Jenkins and Daniel Di Leo rounded out the top five. The race was part of the Audi Sports Car Championships and was a support event to the American Le Mans Series headliner.
"We really believe Robbie had a shot to win the race, and barring unforeseen difficulties would have at least had a podium finish," noted team co-owner Dan Andersen. "Jono had his usual great start, picking up several positions. He then drove a great race, making good passes on [Raphael] Matos and getting by [Nick] Steele despite being held up for awhile."
Klein was driving the No. 97 AWR entry sponsored by Kalfact Plastics; Fettes, Love and Sieben; Nexus Distribution Corp.; Midwest Steel & Services; Ironclad and ProStar.
Pecorari was in the No. 98 AWR car, which was sponsored by SAI Hydraulics.
In the two practice sessions Friday Klein was 21st and third and Pecorari was eighth and fifth. In the three sessions on Thursday, the optional promoter's test day, Klein was 11th, 19th and 12th while Pecorari was 14th, 15th and 10th.
"We will have to work on our qualifying set-ups over the winter; we're great with our race set-ups though," Klein noted afterwards. "We started 15th, and for a good portion of the race we had the fastest lap. I gained nine positions and got up to sixth; I had the quickest car for many laps. That's as far as I got though, because the track really started to fall off at the end. "
"We seemed to have good cars in the afternoons, but we didn't get too many good times laid down in the morning [practice] sessions," he pointed out. "But my car was great in the race. Eric [Langbein] and Scott [Gates] did a fantastic job all year. I think towards the end of the year they were the two best crewmembers in the paddock. John Walko always has good advice to offer, and I want to thank him and Dan Andersen for giving me the opportunity to drive for their team this year. I was just going to do Barber Dodge nationals this year, but Paul Dana told me to check this team out. I did, and it was love at first sight with the team and me. I don't want to go to any other team and I don't even have any second thoughts about that; I'm really looking forward to next year with Andersen Walko."
Andersen Walko Racing will focus on the Star Mazda series next year in addition to fielding cars in SCCA Club Racing events. The team also won the 2004 Formula Ford Zetec team championship this year.
AWR will begin an extensive off-season testing program next month in preparation for the 2005 Star Mazda season opener. That event will be on March 18 as part of the 12 Hours of Sebring program in Sebring, Fla.
"I finished the season 15th in points, but without us missing the first race and having some problems in two other events, I would have had a healthy fifth," Klein said. "I'm extremely excited about next year. I am hoping that Robbie and I can run together as Andersen Walko teammates in Star Mazda next year; we work well together. Our team will head into the winter with an open mind, looking to learn as much as we can and have fun while we do it. We want to go into 2005 as prepared as possible. We have our work cut out for us, but I truly believe we can run for the championship next year. I'm extremely excited!"
The Laguna Seca race will be televised on SPEED at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, Oct. 31. The Oct. 2 race from Phoenix will be broadcast on the same network at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 23. AWR's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa.
Klein, Pecorari Carrying AWR's Colors in Star Mazda Competition at Road Atlanta
FAIRFIELD, N.J., Sept. 22 - Andersen Walko Racing, which topped the team point standings for 2004 in the Formula Ford Zetec championship, will field two Star Mazda cars in the latter series' race Friday as a support event to the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park in Braselton, Ga.
The cars will be driven by 17-year-old rookies Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. and Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa., the younger brother of one of AWR's Formula Ford Zetec drivers, Adam Pecorari.
Klein has competed in all but one of the Star Mazda races held this year and has been doing extremely well. He is currently in ninth place in the overall point standings out of 39 drivers. To date his best finishes are a fourth at Lime Rock Park and a fifth at Mosport.
Pecorari will be making his first start ever in the Star Mazda series this weekend. In July he stepped into an AWR entry in a Formula SCCA doubleheader at Lime Rock, and although he'd never been in one of those races either he finished second in the first race and won the second one.
The Star Mazda car that Pecorari will drive at Road Atlanta is owned by Doug Prendeville, another one of AWR's Zetec drivers and the brother of the AWR driver who finished second in the Zetec championship this year, Andrew Prendeville.
"I've never raced in the Star Mazda series before, but the cars are some of the best cars out there for the price and Road Atlanta is definitely a fun track," said Robbie Pecorari, a senior at Garnet Valley High School in Concord, Pa. "It's a driver's track; it'll take a good driver to win there. I enjoy racing with Andersen Walko. We'll just try our best and see how it goes."
The 45-minute race, which will be taped for broadcast on SPEED at noon Eastern time on Oct. 10, is one of three remaining events on the 2004 Star Mazda schedule. It is scheduled to get the green flag at 1:35 p.m. Eastern time on Friday.
After Road Atlanta the series, which is presented by Goodyear, travels to Phoenix for a race on the oval at Phoenix Int'l Raceway Oct. 2 and then on to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. for the season finale on Oct. 16.
Klein, who is sponsored by Kalfact Plastics; Fettes, Love and Sieben; Nexus Distribution Corp.; Midwest Steel & Services; Ironclad and ProStar, recently participated in a two-day test on the Phoenix oval in his Star Mazda car.
"There were 11 cars testing there, including mine," Klein reported. "We were second-quickest throughout the two days.
"We had some gearbox problems on the first day and we had some engine overheating problems and broke a half-shaft on the second day," he continued. "Luckily that happened when I was coming out of the pits and wasn't up to full speed.
"Unfortunately the second day I did end the day with a crash in turn one when one of my tires failed," he continued. "We weren't on Goodyears, and the tire went down and I went into the wall."
Although the right side of Klein's car was damaged, luckily he wasn't hurt.
"It was the biggest oval I've ever been on," Klein added. "John [Walko, team co-owner and chief engineer] and Eric [Langbein, an engineer] did a great job setting up the car. To post the second-fastest time before we made any changes whatsoever shows how good our team is."
This weekend's Star Mazda schedule shows practice today at 10 a.m. and 2:50 p.m. Tomorrow (Thursday) practice is slated for 9:15 a.m. followed by qualifying at 4:25 p.m. The race time is 1:35 p.m. Friday.
Andersen Walko Racing's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa.
Andersen Walko Racing today announced that Adam Pecorari has joined its Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship team.
FAIRFIELD, N.J. (May 23, 2002) -- Andersen Walko Racing today announced that Adam Pecorari has joined its Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship team.
Pecorari, of Aston, Pa., joins the front-running team, having previously contested the opening two rounds of the Zetec Championship with another team. Driving the No. 28 SAI Hydraulics/Lucky Design/Arai/Biesse Karts Andersen Walko Racing Van Diemen Ford, Pecorari will partner fellow rookies Andrew and Doug Prendeville for the remainder of the 2003 season.
Prior to entering the Zetec Championship, Pecorari raced karts for over 10 years. Competing both nationally and internationally, Pecorari won numerous races and championships, including two IKF Grand National championships. Last year, he was selected as a finalist for both the 2002 Skip Barber Scholarship and the WKA/SCCA Pro Racing Primus Racing Driver Scholarship.
Created in December of 2001 by the merger of Andersen/Kish Racing and John Walko Racing, Andersen Walko Racing is a team with a rich history of success. Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., Andersen Walko Racing has won the prestigious SCCA Valvoline Runoffs National Championship three times, once in the Formula Ford class and twice in the Formula Continental class. In addition, the team has captured three wins, two pole positions and 15 podium finishes in Zetec Championship competition.
"I am really looking forward to racing with Andersen Walko Racing," said Pecorari. "The team is a first class outfit and I know having two teammates as fast as Andrew and Doug, will push me to become a better driver."
The Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship resumes May 24-26, with Rounds Three and Four of the 2003 season at Lime Rock Park, in Lakeville, Conn.
For additional information on Andersen Walko Racing please visit the team website www.andersenwalko.co
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