Justin Wilson continued to impress in only his second Champ Car race on Sunday and his pace over the weekend established him firmly amongst Champ Car's front-runners. In the Monterrey Grand Prix he achieved his second consecutive 6th place...
Justin Wilson continued to impress in only his second Champ Car race on Sunday and his pace over the weekend established him firmly amongst Champ Car's front-runners. In the Monterrey Grand Prix he achieved his second consecutive 6th place finish, led briefly, recorded the 2nd fastest lap, and qualified an excellent 3rd place in both the Friday and Saturday sessions! But while he's pleased with the result, Justin's disappointed that tyre problems prevented him from doing even better.
In an unpredictable race, run over 72 laps in very hot conditions, Justin got off to a strong start. He ran in third place for 25 laps, during which time he was pushed hard by a chasing duo of Forsythe-Lolas driven by 2003 Champion Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani. However, as the laps went by and the heat built up, Justin's #34 Mi-Jack Conquest Lola struggled with rear tyre problems. During the battle with Tracy, Tagliani nipped by both of them to take third place on lap 26, and Tracy finally got by Justin shortly afterwards.
"It was a pretty difficult race and a bit hot", Justin reported after the race. "We were very slow in the first stint because the rear tyres went away. The car was bouncing and sliding all over the place and it was a real handful. I guess Paul (Tracy) had a similar problem because he couldn't get by me. In the end I was just trying everything possible and came out of the last corner and lost the back end. Paul came up the outside, then heading into the next corner I half lost it and he got by".
Justin pitted immediately afterwards on lap 29, and found his second set of tyres much more to his liking. He regained his original pace and led the race briefly before his second pit-stop on lap 56. When the final pit-stops shook out, Justin was in 6th place - ahead of Paul Tracy again 0x2022 and he pushed hard to the chequered flag behind race-winner Sebastien Bourdais, setting the 2nd fastest lap time of the race in the process.
Once more Justin was highest-placed Rookie by some margin. Though pleased with another strong finish, Justin was frustrated 0x2022 he'd hoped for more from his third place start. "The second set of tyres were back up to what we knew and we were quick again. I made a few overtaking manoeuvres trying to get back up the order, but the tyres were too bad during the first stint to really do anything more in the race."
Justin was right on the pace the whole weekend and was full of praise for the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing crew. 'My engineers did a great job by bringing a very good basic set-up here. All of the changes we made on Friday and Saturday were very small, just to try things. Each time we went out we just got quicker. As the track got more grip, and as we found out more with the car set-up, we just kept making improvements. The car was really consistent.'
Like the car, Justin was also consistently fast on all three days. He ran amongst the top three runners in every one of Friday's sessions, and provisionally qualified in third spot. On Saturday Justin continued to run in the top three, was one of six drivers to break the track record, and qualified a fantastic third for the race. His qualifying time of 1.14.354, was just 0.4 seconds behind pole-sitter Bourdais and a mere 0.011 seconds behind Dominguez who just shaded him for second on the grid.
Qualifying third was all the more impressive because Justin had to interrupt the morning warm-up session when he got something in his left eye while out on the circuit. Although this involved a trip to the medical centre for treatment, he made a swift recovery and got back into a good rhythm early on in the qualifying session. The pre-race warm up on Sunday went well too, with Justin recording the second-fastest time as he prepared the car for the race.
Justin's third-place qualifying on both Friday and Saturday was the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team's best ever run in a Champ Car qualifying session. And of course, Justin's 6th place finish in the race has again earned him and the team another valuable 20 points.