ART Grand Prix America Scores 4 Podiums at ProKart Challenge
Round 2 of the SKUSA ProKart Challenge series took the drivers to the famous Willow Springs International Raceway where the teams and drivers were met with a mixture of wet and dry conditions throughout the whole weekend. Following a successful opening round that saw the team take three poles and three podiums, six drivers would brave the weather competing in five different classes looking for success.
With rain, wind, and cold on the unofficial practice day, most drivers opted for limited or no running at all to save equipment for the race day. Phillippe Denes would start the day off Saturday with a strong 4th place in qualifying in the wet as the lone entry in TAG Junior. After a mechanical DNF in the opening heat, Denes would come from last to win the second heat by a staggering 12 seconds. With a rain shower before the final, a decision had to be made about which tires to run and with Denes’ rain tires worn out following the first heat, the team opted for dries. Denes battled through the first half of the final falling back to 6th and close to 26 seconds behind the leader, but then the track began to dry quickly. As the quickest kart on the track Denes battled back through the field to 2nd by the end of the race. A penalty was assessed after which dropped him back to 13th, but nonetheless it was a day full of fantastic drives for the 14 year old who is knocking on that door of his first victory.
Following a strong debut with the team, Matias Podboj made the official switch for the remainder of the season marking the team’s first entry in S1, the pro shifter category. With no practice, Podboj used the qualifying and heat races as testing before pushing forward in the final. Starting 7th in the combined S1/S2 category, the 18 year old Argentinian would battle up to 3rd by the end of the event and 2nd in S1. This was Podboj’s first ever podium in the S1 category, showing the strength of the ART Grand Prix shifter chassis and the potential for victories in the very near future.
Another driver showcasing the future of the new shifter chassis was 19 year old local driver Race Liberante in S2. Normally working as a mechanic for the team, Liberante jumped back into the seat for his first PKC race in a few seasons. Showing lots of speed in pre-event testing, Liberante didn’t run until the second heat due to the weather. After a first lap incident, Liberante would be forced to start last in the final, but wouldn’t’ stay there for long. Running some of the fastest laps in the field, he would battle his way up to 4th overall and 2nd in class. This would also mark the team’s first podium in S2. In addition to Liberante’s strong drive, Gianfranco Casadei showcased his and the chassis rain capabilities by qualifying 2nd overall. He would lead at the beginning of the first heat before a wet set up on a drying track would drop him back to 7th in S2. Pushing throughout the second heat and final, Casadei would come home 6th in class showing improvement from the opening round and with one of his best tracks, AdamsMotorsportsPark, next on the schedule he will look for his first podium in the S2 category.
Rounding out the team’s shifter drivers was rookie pilot Steve Wetterau in S3. Picking up where he left off in Buttonwillow, Wetterau was able to capture another pole. Unlike Buttonwillow, though, Wetterau would maintain his place at the front of the field no matter what the track conditions. He would control the field in the two heats setting himself up for a great opportunity for his first main event win. With dry conditions, Wetterau moved to the lead early and easily drove away to an over 5 second victory. Wetterau captured his first S3 win and the team scored podiums in all 3 senior Stock Honda classes, the only chassis brand to claim that feat from the event.
The lone driver in TAG Senior was 15 year old local hero Brenden Baker. After a strong senior debut at Buttonwillow, Baker would look for a better end result. After qualifying 6th in tricky wet conditions, Baker quickly moved to the lead in the first heat race. Leading until the final lap, Baker lost some momentum and fell back to 4th at the finish. Unfortunately, a broken throttle cable would force the young driver to start the main from the 18th and final grid position. Baker was on a charge early and managed to move into the second position by lap 11 of the 20 lap final. Battling through the field led to Baker having to overuse the tires and he couldn’t quite get close enough to make a move for the lead, eventually finishing a fantastic 3rd position and his first ever senior podium. Baker will look to capture his first victory at the track he scored his last junior win at, AdamsMotorsportsPark, at the next Prokart Challenge round.
“What a day by the entire team, both mechanics and drivers!” explained Team Manager Kyle Kuntze. “Wet and cold conditions always puts a strain mentally and physically on everyone, but we still pushed and had a successful race day. 5 top 3 finishes in all 5 classes we entered, including a podium in all 3 stock Honda classes is absolutely amazing. We have proven time and time again how strong our product is, and this weekend just validates how we have the fastest kart in both TAG and shifter competition.”
ART Grand Prix America is the exclusive U.S. importer for the ART Grand Prix chassis line. With a number of national and regional championships in 2013, the team has established itself as one of the top in the country. With a growing distribution network, the brand can now be seen in all parts of the country. For more information about the team, becoming a dealer, or locating the nearest dealer contact email@example.com or visit www.artgpamerica.com for more info. Look for us on Facebook: ART Grand Prix America and Twitter: @artgpamerica.