ROAD AMERICA: EVENT WRAP UP

CJ Wilson Racing's race weekend at Road America featured four races, encouraging performances, inclement weather and frustrating sense of what might have been.

For the final time in 2017, all three CJWR cars were together at America's National Park of Speed. Team owner, CJ Wilson, had three races in the Porsche GT3 Cup USA by Yokohama while both Porsche Cayman Clubsports were entered in Round 7 of the Continental TIre SportsCar Challenge. 

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Team Owner, Wilson's weekend began early on Friday with a make up race for the cancelled round from Watkins Glen. The race began in the rain and, unfortunately for CJ, it ended in the gravel trap and retirement after a low speed spin. The second race of his event began more promisingly with the Californian competing hard in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately a separate incident in Turn 4 had consequences for the #33 Porsche Fresno/HD Radio 911. "I got off to a great start in the race and then had the unfortunate contact. It was a sort of a 'no fault' contact. We were literally running nose to tail he checked up for a spinning car and I went into the back of him. The damage was where the radiator is and that is a 'no-fly zone' these cars."

Wilson's third and final race was on Sunday morning. He started in P19 and methodically worked his way into the Top 10 by the finish. It was a satisfying end to a generally tough weekend. "I think that I made progress this weekend, and like I said I went faster than I did in qualifying, lap by lap, I learned little bits about the track and about stuff." 

The key to Wilson's progress came from an unlikely source. "The most helpful thing that happened all weekend to be honest with you, was that Roman De Angelis actually let me watch his qualifying video. So he's one of the fastest guys in the class, he's really young, he's very talented, he's got a completely different skill set from me, and watching him drive, how he uses the wheel and the brakes, it was a different thing than I'd ever tried. I mean I understand that that's a way to drive, but I had never tried that in this particular car. So just incorporating that a little bit into my game, I was able to sort of absorb it, assimilate it and kind of get halfway there."

The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge encountered its own distinct set of challenges throughout the weekend. While the #35 Techemet Cayman of Damien Faulkner and Russell Ward had close to a trouble free week, the same could not be said of the #33 Porsche Fresno/HD Radio car of Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer. 

Having run 'one-two' in wet practice and with the threat of rain for race day, CJWR approached Saturday's final practice and qualifying with a degree of confidence. That all changed as soon as the #33 Cayman came to a halt in the middle of pit lane during the short 20 minute practice session before qualifying.  An axle issue was quickly diagnosed but the repairs meant that Bechtolsheimer would miss GS qualifying and subsequently he would have to start the race from the back of the field. 

Saturday's race began under dry conditions but the there was a significant chance of rain from the half way point onward. This very much suited both CJWR cars as Marc Miller and Damien Faulkner felt that a wet track would create a significant advantage for the nimble Caymans. 

Till and Russell Ward both drove strongly recording their fastest race laps on Lap 19 on worn Continental Tires. Both cars came in four laps later for fuel, rain tires and a change of driver. As the rain fell, it briefly looked like the race was going to play out just as Miller and Faulkner would have wished. Sadly, with the rain came lightning which was enough to red flag proceedings and, ultimately, bring the race to a very premature conclusion.

A sixth place finish for the #33 car did move Miller and Bechtolsheimer into sole possesion of third place in the Championship but it also increased the deficit to the new Championship leaders in the #28 Porsche Cayman.

Marc Miller, #33 Porsche Fresno/HD Radio Cayman:

"Unfortunately with the red flag then calling of the race we never got our opportunity to work our way into a position to win and were left with a 6th place result. We lost a couple points to the lead, but overall moved up a position to 3rd and remain in the fight for the title. We are hoping for a race similar to last season at VIR next week - and an opportunity to put our #33 on top of the podium. That will be our best chance to take the title!"

CJ Wilson, Team Owner:

"The first hour of the race was fantastic for every single car in the race. Everybody was door-to-door with somebody at some point and the leaders, they were swapping around like a hot potato. Russell did a fantastic job keeping his cool when he was being kind of hounded by another Porsche and the Astons. Till did a fantastic job starting from last in class to get all the way up to sixth. So I'm really proud of their development as well and looking forward their next race at VIR. I think that's another track that's got a lot of hooks in it, a lot of curves, and that's a place that I feel Mark and Damien are going to have a really big advantage if there is some sort of weather incident again, our team is prepared, we have great pit stops, it's just a matter of figuring out which team is really going to be the last one. And if we don't leave the championships until the last race of the year that would be a brilliant takeover. And that's our goal is obviously to win."

Declan Brennan