ART Grand Prix Returns Two to the Top Step
Nearly three months separated rounds 4 and 5 of the SKUSA Prokart Challenge championship, but the anxious wait came to an end this past weekend at the Lake Elsinore Storm baseball stadium at an exciting and technical temporary circuit laid out in the parking lot. The track would be a replica design of the SKUSA Supernationals layout in Las Vegas at the end of the season, and as a result a number of drivers and teams used the event for extra testing in addition to resuming their championship battles. Eight drivers would compete on the weekend with ART Grand Prix chassis and for the first time this season, multiple victories would be accomplished.
ART Grand Prix America would enter two drivers in TAG Masters for the first time this season as Texas Prokart Challenge champion Jesus Robles and local San Diego driver Robert Switzler would make their season debuts. Robles would be making his debut with ART Grand Prix and would use the weekend for testing to learn the nuances of the TS-01 chassis. After a mechanical in qualifying would force him to start in the rear, Robles would make up ground all day. After moving up to 10th in the heats, Robles would further improve to a 7th place result in the final. Switzler would get limited testing on Friday, but would improve each and every session. Qualifying 10th, Switzler would progress throughout each race in what was only his second ever TAG event. Moving up to 9th and then 8th in the heats, Switzler would put in a fantastic drive to 5th by the end of the final. Look for Switzler to be a podium contender next season as he will compete in more TAG events.
Steve Wetterau and Kalvin Chen would be competing in S3 and would look to take advantage of the championship leader missing the race to score valuable points. Wetterau would start the day off leading an ART Grand Prix 1-2 qualifying effort by taking his 4th pole in 5 rounds. A disappointing first heat would leave Wetterau with a mechanical DNF and Chen would maintain his 2nd place position. Chen would finish a very close 2nd place in the second heat and set fastest lap. Wetterau would have a great drive moving forward from 12th overall on the grid to 6th, while finishing 3rd in S3. In the final, Wetterau would be the driver on the move before contact with the leader would drop him back to 5th at the end of the race. Chen would take advantage of the contact to move into the lead and easily drive away to his first career PKC victory, setting fastest lap in the process. While it was a disappointing mistake for Wetterau, he took over the points lead and will look to secure the team’s second straight title in the class at the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix.
Matias Podboj would compete in the S1 Pro category and look to get back on the podium. A difficult qualifying session would see the Argentinian pilot end up 11th. After a difficult first heat, Podboj would battle his way up to 5th in the second heat. A great start in the final would see Podboj quickly move into 4th, but unfortunately the pace was just not there to maintain his front running position and he would eventually cross the line in 6th. Matias and the team will continue to focus on development in the next few weeks to close the gap at the final round of the season.
Chris Cricca would make his PKC debut on the season while Global Rally Cross racer Alejo Fernandez would make his debut with the team. Qualifying would be very competitive as Cricca would time in 5th, but less than a tenth off of the pole. Cricca would be out of the first heat before it started as the bumpy nature of the temporary circuit snapped one of the rear bumper brackets forcing him to the pits. After promising testing, Fernandez would struggle in qualifying and the first heat finishing 8th, when a faulty intake gasket was found to be the issue. A strong start to the second heat would quickly be negated for Fernandez when a small mistake left him in a barrier with major damage to the chassis. Cricca would put in a spirited drive to battle from the back of the 19 kart field to 7th by the end of the heat with the second quickest lap. Cricca would find himself in a six kart battle for the win in the 20 lap final. Running some of the quickest laps early in the race, Cricca would move well into the top 5. Starting just a little high on tire pressure though, Cricca would have to settle in with a 6th place result, but it was a very impressive performance and a lot of important data for the Supernationals. Fernandez took to the track and immediately knew that all of the repairs to the chassis weren’t quite enough. Fighting through a severe bend, the Colombian GRC driver salvaged a 9th place result.
The race of the weekend definitely went to TAG Junior driver Phillippe Denes. Denes would prove quick in Friday testing, but Saturday would bring struggles as the Nor-Cal driver qualified 6th and could only move up to 5th by the end of the second heat. Getting a great start in the final, Denes was able to work his way up into the lead. With lots of drivers in the lead pack, many drivers were moving up and down the order throughout the 20 lap final. On the final lap, Denes would start the lap in 3rd and hold off charges from competitors behind. This gave him the opportunity to strike when the two leaders made contact and he was able to make a pass going into the final corner to take the lead and secure his first SKUSA Prokart Challenge victory after coming so close all season. With a new chassis coming for the Supernationals, Denes will be one of the drivers to beat in Las Vegas.
“It was a great weekend here in Lake Elsinore,” remarked Team Manager Kyle Kuntze following the event. “The team worked hard all weekend throughout the hot temperatures, but the effort was worth it! I’m so happy for both Phillippe and Kalvin to capture their first victories and this weekend was great evidence that we still have the material to battle for the top step of the podium week in and week out. We look forward to a strong closing weekend in Lancaster and then onto the Supernationals.”
ART Grand Prix America still has limited team opportunities for the upcoming Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix and the SKUSA Supernationals. With everything from arrive and drive to tent space available, a package can be tailored to any person’s needs. For more information about racing with the 2013 SKUSA National and Regional TAG Senior champion race team, visit www.artgpamerica.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to stay up to date with the latest from the team on Facebook: ART Grand Prix America.