ART Grand Prix America and Black Flag Racing Products Enjoy Successful Start to Season
In what was one of the most successful partnerships of 2013 that saw two different race teams come together to capture the SKUSA Pro Tour TAG Senior and Rotax Can-Am Challenge Rotax Senior championships, ART Grand Prix America and Black Flag Racing Products teamed up again to start off the 2014 season at the first round of the Rotax Challenge of the America’s championship in Tucson, Arizona. Running under the Black Flag banner, the longest and largest ART Grand Prix dealer in the U.S.A., the two teams combined to enter five drivers on the ART Grand Prix chassis.
One of the most competitive series in North America, the Challenge of the America’s brings International talent all with the goal of being the champion of the three round championship to earn their ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals. With the fields growing every season, each class becomes stronger from one year to the next. Steve Wiener would be competing in Rotax Masters which saw 20 drivers take the grid. Having been focused on his shifter program the last couple of months, Steve used the practice sessions to get back up to speed and improved his time almost every session throughout the weekend. Steve was able to pick up a 12th and a 13th place finish and will look to move into the top 10 for the Phoenix round.
Four drivers would enter the largest and most competitive class of the weekend, Rotax Senior. Joining the young Andrew Wiener, Brenden Baker, and Marco Eakins would be karting veteran and multi time national champion Matt Johnson. Making his debut on the ART Grand Prix chassis, Johnson would be one of the fastest drivers throughout unofficial testing and looked to be a threat for victory both days. Johnson would lead the team in qualifying with a 10th place effort, but all the drivers were poised to move forward in the pre-final. Johnson was able to move up to 8th, while Eakins had a fantastic run from 32nd to 17th. The 14 year old Oregon driver carried the momentum into the final running some of the quickest laps in the field to drive into the top 10 and a 9th place finish. Trying a radical gear set up for the final, it didn’t provide the results the team hoped for and Johnson had to settle with a 7th place finish, but with the new found knowledge the team was confident they would have a winning set up for the next day. Baker battled a faulty battery most of the day that would wind up hurting his speed in each session. Wiener rebounded from a tough qualifying session to finish 15th in the final, but not the results he was hoping for and they went to work to move up the charts for Sunday.
Round 2 proved just how competitive the Rotax Senior class really has become. Johnson led the way again with a 9th place result in qualifying, while the other three drivers timed in between 15thy and 18th, but all were less than four tenths off the pole time. Continuing to keep searching for speed, Johnson finally regained the pace and ended up moving into 3rd by the end of the pre-final while also setting fast lap of the race. Heading into the final, the team was confident they could keep Johnson up front to battle for the victory. Johnson took the lead on the opening lap before settling into 2nd for the first half of the race. At halfway Johnson moved back into the lead and tried to open a gap as they hit lap traffic. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite break the draft and the battle came all the way to the last lap before some minor contact left Johnson relegated back to 3rd. It wasn’t the result the team wanted, but a podium in their first race together will lead to stronger results throughout the rest of the series. Eakins battled a severe flu all day and while turning some very fast laps, just couldn’t quite manage the consistency needed, but did an admirable job to even finish the race. Wiener was having his best race of the weekend as he had moved up from 18th to 9th in the opening laps and had run down the lead pack when an overaggressive move by another competitor knocked him to the back of the field ruining his race.
The most impressive drive of the weekend came by Phillippe Denes in Rotax Junior. Racing out of their own trailer, Denes took his ART Grand Prix chassis to a 2nd place finish Saturday and set fast lap to earn his first national podium of his career. He followed that up Sunday with another great drive to finish 5th to cap off a fantastic opening round of the season.
ART Grand Prix America is the exclusive importer for the ART Grand Prix chassis for the U.S.A. Winning national and regional championships in TAG, Rotax, and shifter competition in 2013, the team has proven just how strong and versatile the ART Grand Prix chassis line is. For more information on how to become a dealer, to join our national level race team, or to purchase a chassis from a dealer in your area contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to keep up with all of the latest results and news on artgpamerica.com as well on Facebook: ART Grand Prix America.