Justin triumphs in season finale.
Britain's Justin Wilson ended his 2002 Telefonica World Series campaign today in the same style he started his title-winning 2001 International F3000 year -- celebrating victory at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit. Wilson, competing for the Racing Engineering squad, celebrated a second place finish in Round 17 earlier today and followed that up with a comfortable victory in Round 18 on the 4.29km home of the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Qualifying yesterday was a tale of mixed fortune for Wilson as an ill-handling Dallara Nissan proved a bane in the first session with Justin finishing 11th fastest. The second session was to be a happier outing as Justin took the fight to home favourite and 2002 champion Ricardo Zonta. Although the Brazilian pipped Justin to pole, he would start alongside the ex-F1 driver on the front row for the season finale.
A torrential rain storm greeted the field this morning as they lined up for Round 17. The race started behind the safety car on what was a heavily flooded circuit. Wilson proved a wet weather specialist for the second weekend running, this time making up eight places on the first lap alone. Others didn't fare so well in the wet conditions with Ricardo Zonta spinning out and into the tyre wall. The race was stopped on lap six but resumed soon after.
Bas Leinders led the field briefly as he looked to gain ground on Franck Montagny in the battle for second in the championship. His challenge was short-lived as Montagny and Wilson passed him on the first turn at the re-start. Justin kept his French team-mate honest as they pulled away from the competition, the pair crossing the chequered flag less than a second apart and 14 seconds ahead of Polo Villaamil in third.
Justin was not to be out-done by Montagny in the final outing of the inaugural Telefonica World Series and he duly delivered his second win of the season and sixth podium finish in eight races in Round 18. Again, on a wet track, Justin mastered the conditions to pass Zonta for the lead on the second lap, followed closely by Montagny. By the mandatory pit-stops Wilson was in full control, changing to slick tyres and resuming the lead of the race on lap 18.
From there he remained unchallenged and streaked to victory over Antonio Garcia in second place by an impressive 22 seconds. The Racing Engineering team celebrated a second successive double podium for their drivers with Franck Montagny finishing third and clinching the runner's-up spot in the championship. The Spanish squad had further reason to celebrate as Montagny's win in Round 17 and Wilson's victory in Round 18 sealed the Team's Championship for the former Spanish F3 competitors.
With Interlagos proving to be a happy hunting ground once again, Justin commented: "I wished for rain and there it was! In the first race it was almost impossible to drive, if you reached more than 8kph the car would aquaplane. I finished second behind Franck in what was a crazy race! My victory in the second race was thanks to some nice overtaking and an excellent pit-stop, a great way to end the season!"
Interlagos, Brazil -- 4.29km
Justin Wilson (GB) -- Car No.12 -- Racing Engineering / Dallara Nissan
Round 17 -- Qualified 11th / Finished 2nd
Round 18 -- Qualified 2nd / Finished 1st
Justin finishes the season fourth overall in the Drivers Standings on 171 points, courtesy of two wins (R14 Valencia / R18 Interlagos), one second place (R17 Interlagos) and five third place finishes (R3 Jarama / R7 Monza / R11 Catalunya / R13 Valencia / R15 Curitiba).
Ricardo Zonta topped the championship with a final tally of 270, comfortably beating Franck Montagny in second place with 204 points. Bas Leinders took the fight to Montagny for second spot but ultimately had to settle for third place on 184 points.