Brad Dunford (Photo: dromophotos.com)
Created on Thursday, 23 February 2012 19:14
Team Aluminos’ 2012 Superkarts! USA ProKart Challenge campaign began with 6 drivers competing in 3 classes at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, and ended with a 1-2 punch on the podium in the premier class of racing.
Throw in a couple of 3rd place knockout performances, and it’s easy to see that this team may well be off to one of their best starts in 5 seasons of competition within the series.
Long-time team member Brad Dunford, began 2012 the same way he started the 2011 season en route to the S1 class championship by winning the S1 main event. He was followed by teammates Cory Milne finishing in 2nd and Kyle Hathcox in 6th. It was Dunford’s smart driving and patience that paid off, as it took a bit of good fortune, courtesy of a racing incident from the leaders, to cement the win. Dunford, who is being groomed for a career in racing, was solid all weekend, beginning with a qualifying run putting him at P4 to start the day. A heat one run to P3, and a consistent second heat slotted him in P3 for the start of the main. The plan for the final, according to Dunford was, “to keep pace and gain some time here and there on the leaders, and look for opportunities”. And that opportunity came when leader Jimmy McNeil and Clinton Schoombee tangled midway into the main. Dunford steered clear and into the lead going on to the race win. Said Dunford later at the hauler, “I’m so happy for this win, regardless of how they come because this class is so competitive and tough. It’s a great result to begin the year and quest to defend last year’s championship.”
Cory Milne (Photo: dromophotos.com)
Tough also describes Dunford’s teammate Cory Milne, making his S1 class debut moving up after a successful 2011 campaign in the S2 category. The Colorado racer showed why others in the series will need to keep an eye on him as he methodically moved forward all day. With no previous testing and unable to make the Friday practice, Milne showed up on race day to climb aboard the Aluminos prepared GP11 kart and start his day with a solid qualifying run in 7th. He continued to improve positions and lap times each session. Heat one saw him move up to 6th, while forging ahead to 4th in Heat two. A good launch on the start of the main helped him to settle into 4th on Dunford’s rear bumper. Pacing consistently with the lead pack he too benefitted from the same bit of the same luck that graced Dunford’s run to the top, securing a memorable run and S1 debut for Milne to 2nd place.
Kyle Hathcox, the reigning S2 SKUSA Pro Tour class champion, also making his S1 class debut, was hoping for some of the same magic this weekend. Qualifying 6th, Hathcox was ready for a charge forward, but contact on lap one resulted in a DNF in the first heat race. Starting at the rear of the twenty kart S1/S2 class combined field he impressively moved back forward into 7th in the second heat showing excellent race craft. The main event resulted in a 6th place finish in the main for the young driver and a solid opening to the 2012 season. He’ll be looking to better this result in round 2 at Willow Springs.
What sets this Aluminos team apart from others is its commitment to groom young driver talent for futures in racing, as well as its passion for offering the same experience to its part-time or weekend warrior drivers who like to go wheel to wheel for a couple of days - then head back into the real world on Monday with something to show for it. Team Aluminos is clearly the complete team package in the series for all –comers with varying skill–sets and it showed this weekend.
Todd Wilson (Photo: dromophotos.com)
S3 driver Todd Wilson, who drove a partial ProKart Challenge campaign in 2011 with the team, was back in the seat for the opener, and by his own account was “a little bit rusty” after being out of the seat for over six months. Knocking that rust off a little bit each time out, Wilson steadily improved to achieve his best ever lap time at Buttonwillow and pole position in qualifying. The traditional shifter class standing starts did prove to be a nemesis for him, as slow starts on both occasions put him behind, but perseverance and a bit of muscle memory came into play, as Wilson took a third place podium finish in the main. Wilson, whose commitment to his business career sometimes necessarily overshadows his passion for racing, summed it up best when he said, “that was a lot of fun and I accomplished my goal of finishing the race as I get back into racing shape!”
Fun wasn’t the thought S4 competitor Fernando Diaz had rattling around his helmet after a second heat DNF, after a rock-solid P6 qualifying effort, and 5th place finish in heat one. The ultra competitive ProKart Challenge South series S4 class is the strongest and toughest in the country for the Stock Honda Masters division competitors. After taking a year off from racing, Diaz found himself back in the fray albeit further back than anticipated for the Main event. As a result of the Heat 2 DNF, Diaz was starting from the back of the field and would need to pick his way through traffic in order to salvage an otherwise solid weekend. At starting lights went out to start the 20 lap final, Diaz did just that, and wound up with what could arguably be the drive of the entire PKC weekend with his last to third place finish driving clinic for the over 35 year old class. Diaz, a long-time Aluminos driver proved he’ll be a force, as always, in 2012. Phil Dunford, a fellow S4 driver who is always a consistent finisher and former race winner at Buttonwillow in the class had a solid showing as well. Qualifying 13th Dunford steadily improved all day long. A 11th place finish in heat one, became a 9th place grid position in heat two and it was from there Dunford steadily from home to a 7th place finish. Dunford’s solid day was exciting, but the smile on his face at day’s end was for his son Brad, and his win earlier in the day. It’s truly a family affair for the Dunford’s at the races.
It’s been an eventful off-season for team Aluminos with some important additions to the program. For team owner Rob Soares, driver coach Tom Dyer and engine builder George Tavares, Fritz Leeseman and the other Aluminos staff it was a season debut worth waiting for. “What can I say, we’re thrilled with the one – two finish in the S1 Pro class for sure,” said Aluminos owner Rob Soares. ‘But to come out of the gate overall with four of our six drivers on the podium is a statement for us. It shows continued consistency, and we work hard to put a good product on the track. Aluminos’ success is ultimately measured by results, but those results aren’t always measured in race wins. Each driver under our guidance has different reasons for being here and personal goals to achieve. We help to identify, meet and achieve these personal goals for our drivers in a collective manner as a team. Leaving the Buttonwillow facility Saturday night we all felt we had a good solid start to the season with that in mind.”
Team Aluminos preps now for the ProKart Challenge at Willow Springs Raceway in Southern California on March 23 & 24, 2012.
Team Aluminos is a Northern California based operation operating out of the Infineon Raceway complex in Sonoma CA. Noted for their emphasis on driver coaching and trackside support within a no-pressure environment, team Aluminos is a regular presence at tracks all around the western United States. The team also regularly conducts test sessions and driver coaching at the Infineon facility. Affordable packages are available many weekends for those wishing to hone their driving skills during the season.