It was just last week that PRO (Praga Racing Ontario) made the announcement of their new team debut at the second round of the 2013 Florida Winter Tour. “We were very excited to make the announcement of our new partnership with IPK North America and couldn’t wait to get the race weekend underway.” stated the PRO Owners. The debut weekend featured 2-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist and 3-time World Champion figure skater Elvis Stojko, along with Alessandro Manetti, a 3-time European and 2-time CIK/FIA World Karting Champion.
With both drivers new to visiting Homestead-Miami Speedway, only one month in a DD2 for Stojko, and absolutely no experience for Manetti in a DD2, the PRO drivers knew they had a lot to learn in a short time. PRO drivers found themselves in good position after the first round of Qualifying on Friday with Stojko 12th and Manetti 4th. PRO made some changes and set out for the second qualifying round, where they did not disappoint. Stojko jumped into the top ten and Manetti jumped to 2nd, and very happy with how the weekend was progressing and couldn’t wait for the races to start.
As the Saturday race day approached, PRO was excited to get the day going and knew they had the speed to compete for the win. As the green flag dropped in the Pre-final both drivers didn’t waste time moving up the chart. Manetti went from 4th to 2nd on the first lap and Stojko went from 12th to 9th. Manetti started to reel in the leader Cristiano Morgano but right as he was close to him, an electrical gremlin had taken him out of the race. Stojko battled hard the entire race and came home 11th. With Manetti starting dead last and Stojko 11th, both PRO drivers knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. As the green flag dropped, Manetti went straight into the top ten on the first lap but as he was working his way through traffic, he jumped a curb reinjuring his ribs from a motorcycle accident a few months ago. Stojko moved to 8th in the first corner but got involved in an accident in turn 3 that ended his race. Manetti was on the move from lap one, by mid race he had broken into the top five and was charging for third. With halfway to go Manetti caught and passed third place and was hungry for more. With 5 to go Manetti was on the bumper of 2nd place, Scott Campbell, and made the move going down the back straight. Manetti then set his sights on the leader Morgano but it was too little too late to complete the drive of a life time. PRO was very happy with his drive and excited to get the first podium in the team’s first ever race event.
Sunday race day was here and with the amazing success of Saturday, there was nothing but high expectations for the second race day. In the pre-final, Stojko came home 8th and Manetti came home 3rd. As the green waved for the Sunday final race Manetti got pushed back to 5th but didn’t waste time moving back up the charts. By lap 3 Manetti worked his way up to 2nd with just over a 1 second gap to first. As the race went on Manetti started to close the gap but with a few laps left Manetti had to stop pushing because the rib injury was too uncomfortable. Manetti nursed himself home finishing 2nd, bringing PRO their second podium of the weekend. Stojko came home with a 9th and a wealth of experience and is looking forward to the next round.
“We are very happy with the success of our first race weekend. Walking away with two podiums from Manetti and a great learning experience for Stojko cumulated into a very positive experience for all involved. Stojko absorbed a lot of knowledge over the weekend and showed he can run with the best. Manetti was fast all weekend and just couldn’t catch a break in the pre finals. We are proud to have both drivers representing PRO on our debut weekend and we look forward to the next round in Ocala.” PRO team owners.
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