Gold Coast: WPS Racing preview

WORLDLY WILSON BORN TO RACE While he may only be just over 30 years of age, WPS Racing's Max Wilson has lived out the dreams of all young aspiring motorsport stars. The Brazilian has driven a high-tech Formula One car, competed in the Champ...

WORLDLY WILSON BORN TO RACE

While he may only be just over 30 years of age, WPS Racing's Max Wilson has lived out the dreams of all young aspiring motorsport stars.

The Brazilian has driven a high-tech Formula One car, competed in the Champ Car World Series and is currently contesting the world's toughest touring car championship in the world, the Australian V8 Supercar Championship Series.

Wilson began his career in karting aged 11 when he was given a go-kart by his father, Wilson de Lima.

Wilson's tenacious racing style soon drew the attention of factory backed teams and with an impressive rise through the karting ranks, was offered a ride in the 1993 Brazilian Formula Ford championship. A year later he moved to the Brazilian Formula Chevrolet series where he was runner-up in the championship.

In 1995, on the basis of his track performance, Wilson progressed to the more powerful Formula 3 class, where again he impressed, placing 2nd in the South American championship.

Lured by the challenge of a new formula and increased exposure, Wilson moved to Europe in 1996 and drove successfully in the German F3 series before advancing to F3000 in 1997.

In 1998 & 99, the diminutive Brazilian continued to race in the European F3000 series, where his on track talent and astute technical knowledge led him to be noticed by the highly regarded Formula One team, Williams. Wilson was offered the position of Team test driver, a role he filled for two years.

At the end of 1999, Wilson was offered a drive with the ailing Minardi team but a lack of financial backing saw him lose the ride at the last minute to a less experienced but more financially solvent driver. But all was not lost, after an impressive stint at Williams, Wilson spent 2000 as an F1 test driver for Michelin as the tyre manufacturer prepared to re-enter Formula One competition.

Unable to secure a full-time Formula One ride for the 2001 season, Wilson returned to the United States and joined the Arciero-Blair Racing Team to contest the FedEx CART World Series (now Champ Car World Series).

"After my time in Formula One I really wanted to make sure I stayed in the spotlight and at that time the CART series was certainly the strongest open wheel series in the world behind Formula One," said Wilson.

In his rookie year, he posted some inspiring results against the likes of Michael Andretti, Christian Fittipaldi and Kenny Brack. Wilson's best result in a the North American series was fourth place at the Portland circuit which was then followed by his best qualifying effort of the year at the temporary road course in Cleveland where he set the third fastest time.

Failing to raise a full budget for 2002, Wilson packed his bags and headed for Australia where he joined the Briggs Motorsport V8 Supercar team. Keeping in mind he had never driven anything but an open-wheeler, the extra weight, right hand drive and sheer size of a V8 Supercar seemed a significant challenge for the young Brazilian. But Wilson had other ideas.

"When I got to Australia I didn't really know what to expect, it was a whole new world to me but it has been a challenge I have really enjoyed so far," Wilson commented.

"A V8 Supercar is completely different to any other car I've driven but the principles are the same. I admit it did take me a little bit to get used to the characteristics of the cars but I really think I've earned my spot as a competitive driver in the championship."

In just his second outing in a V8 Supercar, Wilson managed to snare fifth position on the grid at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide. His trend for setting the pace during qualifying continued throughout the year, qualifying inside the top 15 starters in 11 of the 14 events during his debut year in the championship.

Over the past four years Wilson has shown glimpses of his true natural talent whilst competing for a variety of teams. In 2006 he is currently enjoying his best season so far and has already recorded three starts inside the top ten, including fourth spot on the grid at the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 last month.

Wilson has recorded six top ten race finishes in the nine rounds already contested in 2006 and is 15th in the chase for the extremely competitive championship, his best position since joining the series.

"At the start of the year I really didn't know what to expect, I was driving for what was effectively a new team, but I can proudly say that I believe we have achieved a lot already this year," Wilson said.

"We set ourselves a goal of being competitive inside the top half of the field by mid year and our results have certainly shown we have been able to achieve our goal. Now it is time to focus on consistently being inside the top ten for the remainder of the year."

While his main focus this weekend will be achieving a good result in the Gillette V8 Supercar Challenge on the Surfers Paradise street circuit Wilson will also be keeping an eye on his compatriots, in particular his good friend Antonio Pizzonia, in the Lexmark Indy 300, round 13 of the Champ Car World Series.

"Brazil has a very strong heritage in motor racing. I grew up idolising guys like Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi," said Wilson.

"Racing karts when I was younger I was good friends with Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves. As we all grew up we all went separate ways but I've always kept in contact with my Brazilian friends including Antonio and Christiano da Matta.

"We all try to keep an eye on how the others are going in their various racing lives across the world and catch up whenever we can. Sometimes that is in Brazil over Christmas time or at a racetrack where two, or three, of us might be."

Wilson and his WPS Racing team-mate Jason Bargwanna will take to the 4.47km circuit on Friday for two practice sessions in the morning followed by qualifying in the afternoon.

The top ten shootout and the first of three 22-lap race will be contested on Saturday. The round will be highlighted by a further two races on Sunday afternoon.

-credit: wps

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Christian Fittipaldi , Tony Kanaan , Max Wilson , Kenny Brack , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Jason Bargwanna
Teams Williams