NORTH VERSAILLES, PA - As part of its association with BeaveRun Motorsports Complex, Andersen Walko Racing conducted a two-day test at the track last week of two drivers who regularly compete in BeaveRun's karting series.
The pair, 28-year-old Brian McHattie of Poland, Ohio and 18-year-old Jennifer Williams of West Middlesex, Pa., drove one of Andersen Walko Racing's Formula SCCA cars.
Team co-owner John Walko said both completed 100 miles and both did very well. Although both are accomplished karters, it was the first time either had driven a formula race car.
It was also the first time the pair worked with engineers and had the advantage of information generated from a data acquisition system. AWR uses the Pi system exclusively.
"It was awesome," said Williams, a senior at West Middlesex Senior High School who raced karts on a dirt oval for eight years before switching to BeaveRun's asphalt track last year. "The handling was a lot better than my kart and it was a lot faster. It was easier to drive and to just go for it!"
When asked what was the biggest thing she learned, she said it was how to take advice from Walko and the other engineers. "I tried to do exactly what he told me to do to go faster, and it worked!" she said.
Williams added that she'd love to advance to car racing with AWR. "My dad raced go-karts when he was younger, and my mom used to race powder puff cars," she added.
McHattie, a sign maker by trade with Sign Pro in Borden, Ohio, has been racing go-karts since BeaveRun started its program a few years ago.
"Running the formula car was wonderful; the whole experience was great," McHattie said. "To be able to drive something with that much power and handling capacity was phenomenal."
McHattie said the biggest thing he noticed between the two different classes was the high level of concentration that the formula car demands. "You have to be more aware of what's around you, and not be complacent," he said.
McHattie said that he'd love to pursue car racing in the future, but a lack of finances holds him back. "I would give anything to be able to drive one of these things for even one race," he said of the FSCCA machine. "It would be phenomenal."
Walko said both drivers did a terrific job. "The track and our team try to pick the winners of the test objectively, and we try to choose people who have the potential to move up into cars if they can find the funding," he said. "It's a way to help the track's karting series, which is excellent. I think both Brian and Jennifer learned a lot about working with engineers and with a data acquisition system. They were able to experience what it's like to come in, make some changes to the car, and then go back out and feel those changes."
BeaveRun is primarily used as a motorsport training facility as well as a testing center for race cars, street cars, automotive components, karts, motorcycles and people's driving skills. The 384-acre facility features one of America's top asphalt sprint tracks, and it is considered to be one of the country's top-three karting centers. The facility was designed by Alan Wilson, an international motorsports designer and experienced racer.
The complex is less than three miles north of the Beaver Valley exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, only 40 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and less than 30 minutes from Pittsburgh International Airport.
It is also very close to AWR's shop in North Versailles, Pa. The team's administrative office is in Fairfield, N.J.
For more information on BeaveRun, please see www.beaveRun. com. For more information on Andersen Walko Racing, which will field multiple cars in Star Mazda and SCCA national and club events next year, please see www.andersenwalko.com.