TRAFFORD, PA (May 4, 2006) – It has been a long two months since the opening round of the STAR Mazda Championship Series. However, the John Walko Racing crew has not been letting any of that down time go to waste. With three new drivers for the 2006 season, two of which are rookies, preparation, testing and coaching has been in full swing.
Team owner John Walko indicated the testing sessions serve a much greater purpose than just the track time alone.
“Our drivers completed over 3000 trouble free miles of testing in total over the last few sessions. The momentum just builds and builds the more you run.” Walko also noted that the benefits aren’t just relegated to the drivers, “When the guys on the crew see the cars run mile after trouble free mile and watch their drivers improve with each session, it inspires confidence. It is an intangible value that should help the whole team climb to the next level.”
Most recently, the JWR hauler rolled out of the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course following two more days of intensive testing. All three drivers participated in the test on the newly repaved 2.25 mile track alongside drivers from AIM Autosport and Phenom Racing. Newcomer to the team Kevin Lacroix set the pace for the JWR trio with Ross Smith close behind.
Smith’s confidence and speed is as high as it has ever been thanks in part to the rapport he is building with his crew, “I love working with my engineer Eric, we are really meshing well and the communication between he and I and Scott is getting better and better.”
Charles Anti has also shown tremendous strides in the last two tests, particularly at Mid Ohio where the Series races in just two weeks. Success at Mid Ohio is not new to Anti however, “I've run this course in the Skip Barber cars and have won three races there previously.”
Adding to the momentum the team is building on their own, JWR has been fortunate to acquire the services of much sought after driver coach Mike Zimicki. Zimicki has a long history as a coach with everyone from the Skip Barber Series to his current role as a driver coach to Rahal-Letterman Racing and Graham Rahal.
Walko is ecstatic about the addition and feels the impact will be realized immediately, “It is a real feather in our cap that Mike chose to work with us. He will be invaluable in helping to sharpen the learning curve, particularly with our rookie drivers.”
This slate of testing culminates with a stretch of three races in four weeks starting with the Grand Prix of Houston May 13-14 followed by a return trip to Mid Ohio the following weekend. A much needed weekend off is then followed by the lone oval on the schedule at the fabled Milwaukee Mile.
The street race at Houston is new to all three drivers but each has had a degree of experience in similar situations. Anti likened his experiences at Watkins Glen, where he is a two time race winner, with the tight quarters racing that is expected at Houston, “The closest thing I've done to a street race is running Watkins Glen where the walls are just a few feet from the track. The competition level is elevated in this series though and the track time is limited so we have to be up to speed right away. That is one thing I have been working on in testing.”
Smith ran Montreal last year and anticipates the same feel to the event, “This should be very similar, concrete barriers and not much run-off. I expect a lot of traffic and probably a lot of yellows so getting up to speed quickly and qualifying well are going to be very important.”
While he has just one street race under his belt, last season’s Formula BMW race in Denver, Lacroix is looking forward to his first race with JWR, “I think we learned a lot last year in what to expect at these events and I know what I need to work on. I’m excited about my first race with the team in Houston.”
All of the hard work recently hopefully will pay dividends soon according to Walko, “The miles and miles of testing our drivers have turned, the solid cars are crews continue to turn out and the addition of Mike Zimicki as driver coach should help us move up the charts in the coming events.”
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding testing programs available for the 2006 season.
TRAFFORD, PA (April 20, 2006) – To be successful in the STAR Mazda Series, and contend for the Championship, requires much more than participating in twelve races. John Walko Racing is keenly aware of the challenge at hand and as such continues to strive for every advantage.
All three cars and drivers participated in a three day test at BeaveRun Motorsports Complex, including the latest addition to the team, Canadian rising star Kevin Lacroix. Lacroix joined JWR drivers Charles Anti and Ross Smith on the 1.8 mile road course that is essentially the “home field” for John Walko Racing.
Plano, Texas driver Smith set the pace early, eclipsing the quickest time’s ever run at BeaveRun in a STAR Mazda machine. This was particularly impressive considering the drivers who have tested at this facility under the guidance of John Walko as the engineer for Andersen-Walko Racing including 2005 Series Winners Graham Rahal, Robbie Pecorari and Pablo Donoso along with Indy Pro Series driver Jonathan Klein.
“Today we beat the track record so we are ecstatic obviously.” Ross noted though that these tests involve much more that just a search for fast time, “Eric, Scott and I are working on chemistry still but really the setups for this track and Mid Ohio are very similar so it is important in that aspect as well.”
Anti, who got his start in racing driving karts just a few hundred yards away at BeaveRun’s Wilson Circuit, was striving to work through his rookie learning curve at this test.
“Right now we are working mostly on track time as a team but something I am working on myself is improving the mental aspect of getting up to speed. Usually it takes a few laps to do so and I want to minimize that.”
John Walko concurred with Ross Smith regarding the application of testing at BeaveRun, “We find this is a really good test track for Mid Ohio which is just two races away. Sometimes we'll even stop here on the way to Mid Ohio as a shakedown.”
Walko also utilized the time to promote the team’s interest in the local karting program at BeaveRun by providing track time to select up and coming racers.
“I'm always glad to help promote the karting program here at BeaveRun. As we are seeing with Charles signed on this year in our program, there is the potential to work with more local drivers to help develop the talent in this area.” Walko continued, “With a start at a world class facility like BeaveRun, young racers can see there is a ladder that can be climbed in their racing careers.”
Two previous Champions in the BeaveRun Karting Series enjoyed this incredible opportunity including Sam Hanley, the 2004 ICA Champion and Stephen Sokol who dominated the 2005 TaG class.
Sam commented, “I can't imagine this going any better. Working with John's team has been excellent. I have only been in a full size race car one other time and that was whole different world than this car and this team.”
“I have to thank John for the opportunity. I really like this group of people and I'm thrilled to be part of this experience,” exclaimed a smiling Sokol.
Next on the schedule for drivers Charles Anti, Ross Smith and Kevin Lacroix is testing at Mid Ohio followed by the second race of the season, the Grand Prix of Houston.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (March 8, 2006) – STAR Mazda Championship Series veteran Ross Smith has signed with John Walko Racing for the 2006 season. This will be the third year of competition in the series for the Plano, Texas driver.
Smith scored 10 podium finishes including 5 victories in the Southwest Formula Mazda Series after scoring dozens of wins and multiple championships in karting. He then moved to the STAR Mazda Championship Series in 2004 for a partial season followed by a full season in 2005, posting four top ten finishes.
Ross is excited about the prospects of getting the season rolling with a team like JWR, “I’m very happy to be part of a well organized team like John Walko Racing. I think I can do well here and I’m really looking forward to Sebring.”
After watching the nineteen year old driver’s progress over the past few seasons, team owner John Walko is looking forward to having Smith as part of the team.
“We are thrilled to have Ross join our team. Having him on board will put both our team and Ross in a situation to perform well.”
Ross has been working with JWR in pre-season testing, including a stint at Roebling Road Raceway in Savannah, Georgia where they have just concluded final preparations for the season opening race at Sebring. According to Walko, the testing has been a success, “He’s done really well in the testing. Right now it’s all about the car and the setup. He knows what he wants the car to be able to do.”
Smith will join series Rookie Charles Anti at JWR as part of a multi-car effort to challenge for the STAR Mazda Championship. Walko believes that adding a veteran will be a benefit to the entire team, “It’s good to have an experienced driver like Ross. He’ll be a good teammate for Charles.
John Walko Racing, along with drivers Charles Anti and Ross Smith, kick off their STAR Mazda Championship season with the opening race at Sebring International Raceway from March 15th - 17th in conjunction with the 54th Annual Twelve Hours of Sebring and the American Le Mans Series.
The team is seeking interested drivers to join JWR for the STAR Mazda series. Testing programs and full or partial race seats are available for the 2006 season. Contact John@johnwalkoracing.com for more information.
TRAFFORD, PA (March 1, 2006) – The John Walko Racing team made the most of testing at Virginia International Raceway recently in preparation for the 2006 STAR Mazda Championship season kick-off at Sebring, March 15-17.
Rookie of the Year contender Charles Anti tackled VIR’s North Course, turning in 400 trouble free miles over two days. The team charted a course of qualifying runs and full race distance simulations for their young driver and Anti responded by turning competitive lap times throughout the test.
Team owner John Walko was pleased with the development of Anti on the track as well as off as he forges a relationship with Crew Chief Sebastien Jubelin and Engineer Steve Dreizler.
“I was very impressed with Charles’ consistency and his ability to improve on his lap times all the way through the two days. It was a pleasure to watch Charles work with Steve and Seb so well. They should be an excellent combination for the season.”
The 2005 Skip Barber Eastern Regional Series Champion was equally as happy with the outing, “After this test I am feeling confident and comfortable with the car. We were able to run competitive times and consistently improve throughout the test, which bodes well for the future.” Anti continued, complementing his crew, “It’s a pleasure working with this team that John has put together, and I can’t wait to begin competition.”
STAR Mazda veteran Ross Smith was also on hand for the test and impressed the JWR organization. Walko is optimistic about having Ross onboard for the 2006 season as well.
“I think Ross would be able to work well with Charles as a teammate,” noted Walko. “Even though Ross is 19 years old he will be starting his 3rd season in Star Mazda. We think that in our environment Ross will improve on his previous results.”
The team now looks to the opening race to build on the success of their pre-season testing program. Walko credits the team’s hard work for the solid start, “Having gone through 2 successful tests it is gratifying to see that the crew has not skipped a beat at the track. They have done an excellent job preparing for the season and they are itching to get to Sebring.”
The team is seeking interested drivers to join JWR for the STAR Mazda series. Testing programs and full or partial race seats are available for the 2006 season. Contact email@example.com for more information.
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