Team News: ART Grand Prix America Sweeps TaG Senior at SKUSA Pro Tour
The SKUSA Pro Tour is one of the toughest national championships in the United States and ART Grand Prix America traveled to Tucson, Arizona for the first two rounds of the series with seven drivers poised to make their way to the podium. Testing two weeks earlier at the facility, the team felt prepared and confident that the momentum from all of the early season races would carry over to one of the toughest events of the year. TAG Junior, TAG Masters, and the co-headline class TAG Senior were the three categories the team would contest. Drivers and mechanics arrived Thursday to set up the pit and finalize kart preparations for the Friday test day which would see the drivers take to the track for six rounds of practice.
Entered in TAG Junior were team drivers Phillippe Denes and Brenden Baker. Baker entered the event as one of the hottest junior drivers in the country, leading the SKUSA Prokart Challenge after the first two rounds. The fourteen year old pilot has been busy all season competing in a variety of series and classes around the country and he started Friday off strong pacing the field up until the official sessions. In the official sessions though, Baker would fall down the running order and the team would go to work overnight to correct the issue. Unfortunately, the weekend just continued to get worse and while the whole team battled to correct the issues, the pace just couldn’t be regained. While Baker tried to carry the ailing kart all weekend by having outstanding starts and moving up double digit positions in each opening lap, the issues would arise and the struggle continued. Denes was entering his first ever national event and the weekend would prove up and down. Timing in solidly in the top 10 in Friday’s official sessions, Denes would have a fantastic qualifying run with a 5th place on Saturday.
A critical point in the races for the rest of the weekend would be the starts. Struggling to be able to maintain his position, the fourteen year old Northern Californian would be forced to play catch up throughout the heats and main event. Having to start the main event in 12th, Phillippe would rebound to a strong 9th place finish and secure a top 10 in his inaugural national race. Looking to build on the momentum for Sunday, Denes qualified 9th and was determined to finish with a double top 10. Unfortunately, luck would not be on his side as he was in a heated battle in the main when an aggressive move by a competitor left the young pilot off the track and his race over. While not the final results the team was hoping for, the experience was very positive and more work will be done to develop Denes into a podium threat for the Summernationals in Colorado.
Steve Wiener would be the lone TAG Masters driver for the team. After having issues the past couple of seasons in Pro Tour competition, Wiener would look to rebound with a strong weekend. Battling some engine issues Saturday, the team found over a second Sunday and Wiener would battle up to the mid pack and start the 29 kart main event from the 19th position. Getting a great start, Wiener moved his way up into the top15 on the opening lap and was looking to be aggressive to have a strong close to the weekend. Unfortunately, a broken rear bumper would bring the veteran driver’s race to an early end. Happy with the progress that was made, the team will look to build on this momentum for the rest of the season.
TAG Senior had four ART Grand Prix America drivers to battle the most competitive class in the championship. Regular team drivers Andrew Wiener, Andres Felipe Ceballos, and Juan Jimenez would be joined by Black Flag Racing driver Andrew Zimmer, who would be making his first start on an ART Grand Prix chassis. Wiener started the weekend off strong timing in the top 5 during Friday’s official sessions. Qualifying sessions all weekend were a great example of teamwork as all of the drivers would go out together and work with one another to help each one lay down as fast a lap as possible. Wiener had a good result with an 11th, but was knocked down the order in the heat races after getting spun and knocked off track. A brilliant drive in the main, though, would see the San Diego driver move all the way back up to 7th and start off his Pro Tour season with a strong result. Looking to contend for the podium Sunday, Wiener would qualify 9th and struggled a bit in the heats. Diagnosing some engine issues, the team was confident for the main, but a first lap incident left Wiener on the sidelines. Ceballos was making his first ever national start. Just moving up to the senior category, the 15 year old Colombian would improve throughout each session on the weekend. Battling some mechanicals throughout the weekend, Ceballos put in strong main event drives both days to come away with two 14th place finishes. Jimenez was making his first ever national start as a senior as well and would impress all weekend. Making the engine switch from a Leopard to a Rotax late into Friday left the young Colombian pilot a bit behind, but he would work hard to quickly adapt. Saturday would see the young driver just focus on getting more up to speed and things finally clicked in the main, driving up from the mid pack to a fantastic 8th place. Jimenez stayed consistent throughout Sunday qualifying in the 8th position. The heat races would be a bit of a struggle as the lack of senior experience caught him out and some racing mistakes dropped him down the running order. Jimenez made up for these mistakes in the main by turning some very fast laps and driving his way all the way back to an 8th again for a fantastic first weekend in senior competition. Andrew Zimmer would make his first weekend with the team a bit more difficult by not being able to practice Friday.
Showing up Saturday morning, the Washington college student didn’t miss a beat getting up to speed qualifying in 6th. Battling throughout the heats, Zimmer would line up 8th for the final. Getting a good start, Zimmer began to slowly work his way by each driver until he finally moved into the lead. The experienced driver had to drive the race of his life to keep everyone behind him and managed to hold on the rest of the way to not only win his first, but the team’s first national level race. With little time to celebrate, the team went back to work on Sunday and another round of strong qualifying and heats saw the driver line up the main event 3rd. This time the main would be a bit different as Zimmer would fall a bit behind early, but then was able to catch up and regain the lead. Locked in a three way battle, Zimmer made a daring pass in turn 1 on the final lap and when they made their way back to the finish line, it was a double race weekend win for Zimmer, Black Flag Racing, and the ART Grand Prix America squad.
ART Grand Prix America would like to thank all of its supporters for making this possible: ART Grand Prix, D Power Racing Engines, Starlane Electronics, Lucky Design, and KartFX. Also, a big thank you to all team mechanics: Troy Castaneda, Mike Razetto, Luke Vasquez, Robert Baker, and Zoltan Denes.
ART Grand Prix America is the North American importer for the ART Grand Prix chassis and is actively seeking dealers across the United States. Contactartgpamerica@gmail.com for more information as well as for race team and testing programs.
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