Hill Overcomes Conditions for Two More Podiums at Firebird
TRAFFORD, PA (December 17, 2007) -- The John Walko Racing team rolled in to Firebird International Raceway with no experience at the facility but plenty of expectations. Driver Mike Hill scored an impressive sweep at the previous event, scoring two wins at Buttonwillow, but had never raced at Firebird either.
In addition to the lack of previous data to work with from the facility, the lack of a practice day preceding the event meant the team would have to come off of the trailer strong and be able to adapt to the track and conditions quickly. With the Star Mazda Winter Series running practice, qualifying and a race each day there would be little room for error.
According to John Walko the team was confident in their preparations and that of their driver but they were also dealt an additional variable on Saturday morning.
"It was another good weekend. We would have liked to have run on Friday as we were there and prepared but to no avail. To make matters more interesting on Saturday, we were met with a wet session first thing in the morning. Mike proved that he came ready as well holding down the top spot by a few seconds."
The rest of the weekend proved to be a test of the team's ability to adjust to a constant series of changing weather conditions and track conditions. Even with a dry track, the bumps and grittiness of the surface was akin to street racing.
"We had little time to make many changes but we were fortunate enough to have excellent street course and wet set-up data to work from. Mike provided good feedback and adjusted quickly, setting out to an early lead on Saturday. He later had a pretty good dice for the lead, but the race ended up finishing under yellow with us in second. A good second place finish there with little testing or time to rub on the car much to tune for the track."
Sunday was more of the same as the day started with everything from wet to drying conditions. With the rains stopped, the sun starting to shine and the race ready to roll the team decided to take their chances on slicks.
"It was a wet morning leaning towards drying and we did get the morning practices on slicks. By race time the sun was coming out and the track was starting to dry so we made the call to go with slicks. During the pace lap it started to rain tough and we were one of the only front runners on slicks. Mike put on a great drive and came home third, not only finishing on slicks but beating most of the rest of the field that was on rain tires. By the end of the race he was running times within a half second of the leaders which was really impressive."
The Gilroy, California driver looks to the final round at Phoenix International Raceway with his eye on a potential Championship after scoring two wins, a second and a third in the first four races. JWR has a second car available for drivers interested in joining the team for the final race weekend at Phoenix. Drivers interested in discussing the final Winter Series event and/or winter testing should contact John Walko Racing as soon as possible at email@example.com . Additional team information can be found at www.johnwalkoracing.com.
Mike Hill: "It was a really good weekend. We were surprised by the track to a degree initially but it turned out to be a great test of all that racing involves. We had a commanding lead in the first race but it was really the first dry session so I was trying some different lines and got caught and passed only to have the race end under yellow on the next lap. In the second race we went with a dry set-up but it rained again during the race which made every turn a gut check and a challenge! I still finished third, keeping a good pace despite being one of the only cars on slicks. We worked our tails off all weekend to get the car to work right in all the different conditions. The crew was fantastic again and I was able to learn so much working with everyone. I definitely drove to my abilities as well so I was really proud of that."
John Walko -- Engineer for Mike Hill: "Mike was unbelievable. Sunday in particular in the rain was a really impressive drive. I was actually more impressed by that drive than the two wins at Buttonwillow. It was fun to watch, it was that good. Mike is a talented driver, and this event was a true test of his abilities in a variety of conditions as well as his ability to adapt to street race-like track conditions."
"This Winter Series has turned out to be really good. It is so much more productive than testing, to get out there and run in a race environment is a tremendous way to learn. I hope more people sign up and do this next year as it is just a great off season tool."