Wampum, PA (November 16, 2006) -- Most kart racers spend their entire career wishing they had a chance to show their mettle behind the wheel of a race car but understand that the chances of someone offering them the opportunity with no strings attached is very rare. Fortunately for the kart racers that compete in the BeaveRun Championship Kart Series, there is someone out there that just may give them that opportunity.
That person is John Walko, a regular in the BeaveRun karting paddock turning wrenches on son Trent's Cadet Kart. John also happens to own John Walko Racing, a professional race team headquartered in Trafford, PA that competes in the Star Mazda Series.
Walko has been an active supporter of the karting series since its inception. Each year he hand picks drivers that display race savvy on track combined with a mature presence off the track as well. These drivers earn the chance of a lifetime according to Series Race Director Scot Silbaugh.
"We are fortunate to have someone like John provide this opportunity. I don't think an aspiring kart racer could find a program like this at any other track; we are very lucky."
The most recent drivers to make the giant leap from karts to the 240 horsepower Star Mazda machines were Timmy Wilson and Matt Machiko.
Wilson competed at BeaveRun in the Briggs Animal class primarily along with traveling to WKA events but until this date had never turned a lap in a race car. Machiko recently capped his season off with a second track Championship in the Yamaha Junior Can division. Machiko also had never been behind the wheel at speed in anything other that a kart until this test.
The two young racers took to their latest challenge quickly though and the lap times tumbled as confidence soared in each driver. At the end of the day Walko came away impressed with the duo.
"I was blown away by Matt and Tim both. Compared to when we started this program, the times are more competitive and the drivers are making fewer mistakes."
For Machiko the ear to ear grin every time he stepped from the car was a give away that this was an opportunity he would not soon forgot.
"It was a whole new experience, a thrill, completely amazing! It was the most fun thing I've done in my life. I just have to thank the whole crew from John to Scott to Ray; everyone there was great and helped me so much."
Wilson was quick to echo Machiko's sentiments after an incredibly smooth and fast run made even more notable by the fact that he had raced only sparingly this season.
"It was awesome, just amazing how these cars handle at this speed. The closest I've ever driven to anything like this is a kart; this is just a totally different ball game. It was so much fun driving this car and working with everyone, they really know what they are doing."
Walko believes that the credit for much of the early success these two young drivers experienced goes to the BeaveRun Karting facility and the quality of racing in the BeaveRun kart series.
"Matt ran a low 54 and handled himself very well, I was impressed. Meanwhile Tim did extremely well too running mid 53's. Again, not a mistake. He was very smooth, perfect downshifts, never put a wheel off. I have to attribute that to how hard they pound on each other week in and week out at BeaveRun. Maybe our cars are developed more since then but these kids never even put a wheel off in the grass, never made any mistakes."
Ironically, both drivers ran their test behind the wheel of the car driven by a BeaveRun Karting grad, Charles Anti. Anti helped Walko's team clinch the 2006 Star Mazda Team Championship. His success with the team further validates the quality of drivers coming through the BeaveRun Karting system.
Silbaugh was understandably enthused with the performance of the young drivers he has watched come up through his program.
"This is really exciting to see racers who started with us when they were just young kids earn this kind of opportunity. And to see them do so well right out of the gate just proves that the competition level at BeaveRun and the facility itself help to develop excellent skills"
Star Mazda Champions JWR Launch 2007 Testing Program Rotax Junior Grand National Champ Megenbier Tests with JWR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRAFFORD, PA (November 6, 2006) – Just two weeks after winning the Star Mazda Team Championship in their first season, the John Walko Racing crew was hard at work again. The team set up shop at their home track, BeaveRun Motorsports Complex, to take advantage of some clear fall days in advance of their scheduled testing program.
The first driver on track this testing season was recently crowned Rotax Junior Grand National Champion Timmy Megenbier. The Melrose Park, Illinois driver recently earned an invitation to do test drives for the 2007 Red Bull Junior Team and will travel to Lisbon, Portugal to test his skills.
Megenbier also was coming off of a successful stint in the Skip Barber National series, where he scored a second and fourth in the final two races at Road America on the same weekend he won the Rotax Championship. However, the fifteen year old racer felt that there would be an advantage to spend a day of testing with JWR in a higher horsepower car before heading to Portugal to run the Red Bull Junior Team Formula BMW cars.
The effort to put this test together at such a late date was worthwhile according to Megenbier.
"It was a great day! We came in to it just as a practice day, that's what it ended up to be, but every time we went out we went faster and had better car control and better feel. John and I hooked up really well - he knew what to do and I knew what to do so it went really well."
Despite cool temperatures, Megenbier turned in very impressive times according to team owner John Walko who was engineer for the test.
"For the first time in a Star Mazda car and his first time at BeaveRun I was really impressed. He was just a second off of our best time ever here on a less than ideal day. Neither the track nor the air temperature ever went beyond 52 degrees; we never saw the sun all day."
Walko also noted that Timmy responded with accurate feedback to changes made by the team.
"I made changes to the car and he sensed what they did quite well. I'd do things without telling him and then ask him what it did to the car and he was able to explain the changes well. He was able to feel where it affected the car the most and give good feedback, really impressive actually."
For Megenbier the test went well and should be good preparation for his trip to Europe where he will not only take part in the test drives for the 2007 Red Bull Junior Team but also race in the Rotax World Finals which are being contested in Portugal as well. This invitation to compete against some of the brightest rising stars in racing was earned by becoming the Rotax Junior Grand National Champion.
"This was a new experience getting used to the track in such a high horsepower car. It was a good test to help prepare for Red Bull program though. I think we should do this again soon."
This test was just the beginning of an off season program for JWR that will have the team traveling next to Road Atlanta for several days of on track activity. Charles Anti and Russell Walker, two key members of the 2006 Championship winning team, will be among those drivers testing for JWR at Road Atlanta.
Drivers interested in participating in the off season testing program are encouraged to contact the team soon. Also, drivers interested in discussing their 2007 racing programs should contact John Walko Racing at John@johnwalkoracing.com .
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.
NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa., Oct. 28 - As part of its association with BeaveRun Motorsports Complex, Andersen Walko Racing conducted a two-day test at the track last week of two drivers who regularly compete in BeaveRun's karting series.
The pair, 28-year-old Brian McHattie of Poland, Ohio and 18-year-old Jennifer Williams of West Middlesex, Pa., drove one of Andersen Walko Racing's Formula SCCA cars.
Team co-owner John Walko said both completed 100 miles and both did very well. Although both are accomplished karters, it was the first time either had driven a formula race car.
It was also the first time the pair worked with engineers and had the advantage of information generated from a data acquisition system. AWR uses the Pi system exclusively.
"It was awesome," said Williams, a senior at West Middlesex Senior High School who raced karts on a dirt oval for eight years before switching to BeaveRun's asphalt track last year. "The handling was a lot better than my kart and it was a lot faster. It was easier to drive and to just go for it!"
When asked what was the biggest thing she learned, she said it was how to take advice from Walko and the other engineers. "I tried to do exactly what he told me to do to go faster, and it worked!" she said.
Williams added that she'd love to advance to car racing with AWR. "My dad raced go-karts when he was younger, and my mom used to race powder puff cars," she added.
McHattie, a sign maker by trade with Sign Pro in Borden, Ohio, has been racing go-karts since BeaveRun started its program a few years ago.
"Running the formula car was wonderful; the whole experience was great," McHattie said. "To be able to drive something with that much power and handling capacity was phenomenal."
McHattie said the biggest thing he noticed between the two different classes was the high level of concentration that the formula car demands. "You have to be more aware of what's around you, and not be complacent," he said.
McHattie said that he'd love to pursue car racing in the future, but a lack of finances holds him back. "I would give anything to be able to drive one of these things for even one race," he said of the FSCCA machine. "It would be phenomenal."
Walko said both drivers did a terrific job. "The track and our team try to pick the winners of the test objectively, and we try to choose people who have the potential to move up into cars if they can find the funding," he said. "It's a way to help the track's karting series, which is excellent. I think both Brian and Jennifer learned a lot about working with engineers and with a data acquisition system. They were able to experience what it's like to come in, make some changes to the car, and then go back out and feel those changes."
BeaveRun is primarily used as a motorsport training facility as well as a testing center for race cars, street cars, automotive components, karts, motorcycles and people's driving skills. The 384-acre facility features one of America's top asphalt sprint tracks, and it is considered to be one of the country's top-three karting centers. The facility was designed by Alan Wilson, an international motorsports designer and experienced racer.
The complex is less than three miles north of the Beaver Valley exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, only 40 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and less than 30 minutes from Pittsburgh International Airport.
It is also very close to AWR's shop in North Versailles, Pa. The team's administrative office is in Fairfield, N.J.
For more information on BeaveRun, please see www.beaveRun. com. For more information on Andersen Walko Racing, which will field multiple cars in Star Mazda and SCCA national and club events next year, please see www.andersenwalko.com
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