The first race for the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge on the Circuit of The Americas saw the home team in a close battle but in the end Stevan McAleer and Marc Miller drove the #5 Mazda to the ST class victory.
CJ Wilson Racing completed a memorable weekend of Grand Am racing at Circuit of the Americas by taking it's maiden victory in the ultra competitive ST class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge on Saturday afternoon. Stevan McAleer and Marc Miller took the checkered flag after an intense battle in the final minutes of the two and a half hour race.
After a late full course yellow tightened the 36 car field, the race to the flag became a frenetic twenty five minute sprint race. Both CJ Wilson cars were caught out on the re-start with McAleer's #5 ModSpace car being demoted to P5 while Jason Saini in the #3 head & shoulders car spun due to a failing abs system. Over the next 10 laps or so, the 28 year old Scot put on a drive the drive of his life as he steadily and relentlessly picked off the cars in front. With two laps to go he lay in third only headed by the Freedom Motorsport MX-5 of Tom Long and the BMW 135 of seasoned sports car veteran, Terry Borcheller. Third became first heading onto the final lap but Borcheller refused to give up and retook the lead on CoTA's long back straight. McAleer did not panic and knew the nimble nature of the CJWR MX-5 still gave him a chance of an historic first victory for the Austin based team. Stevan's pass for the lead through turn 13 was a master class in aggressive but ultimately clean driving.
The #3 head & shoulders car and the #5 ModSpace cars dominated the opening half of the race as Chad McCumbee and Marc Miller ran in formation for the last 25 minutes of their opening stints. For McCumbee, this was an emphatic validation of his blistering pole lap from Friday qualifying. A full course yellow allowed the both cars to pit for fuel and fresh drivers. The cars rejoined in positions twelve and thirteen as many of the ST runners decided not to pit. Within 10 laps the #3 and #5 cars were back in second and third place. Both cars were able to race within themselves and conserve fuel prior to the incident which led to the final full course yellow of the afternoon.
The team will regroup at the Austin race shop and prepare the cars for Round 3 of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challnge Series at Barber Motorposrts Park, Alabama, on April 6th.
CJ Wilson - Team owner:
"This weekend is a dream come true for all the drivers, crew, partners and myself as well. Circuit of the Americas is a world class track and to win a Grand-Am race there on our home turf is by far the biggest achievement our team has yet experienced. With yesterday's pole result and today with a win- things are off to an incredible start in 2013. It will however be impossible to sneak up on any teams from now on. I'm so proud of Chad, Jason, Marc and Stevan as well as Andris our engineer for putting such a great Mazda on the grid. We are proud to carry the Zoom-Zoom banner in the ST class and hope to learn just what the car and our drivers can do from here on out."
Stevan McAleer - Driver of the #5 ModSpace Car:
On that last restart it got a little difficult as some of the faster front wheel drive cars lined up directly behind us and they managed to sneak past. I was getting a little desperate as I knew I was running out of time. The last two laps, I was having fun to say the least. The crew was on the radio saying, "we're on the podium nothing silly, nothing silly". Once I got that taste of first place I wasn't going to give it up.
On the last lap I came out of the hairpin onto the back straight and I actually missed a shift from second to third. I knew he would have the pace to take a run at me on the inside; Terry [Borcheller] did an unbelievable job on the brakes. He ran out and defended the line on the inside but I could tell as he went into the corner that he wouldn't be able to hold the apex so I just the under move and cut back underneath him. At that point I could hear about fifty cheers on the radio but I had to tell myself that it wasn't over and there were still seven corners to go.
Marc Miller - Driver of the #5 ModSpace Car:
We have gelled quickly, I worked with Stevan last year in the MX5 Cup and we have become quick friends and we knew going into 2013 we were going to have a formidable team. It's nice to come back after the disappointment of Daytona and put an exclamation point on what the season could be like. I'm also thankful that we were able to get CJ the team's first win in Austin where the team is based. I was given the task to qualify and run the first stint of our two-hour & thirty minute race and hand over the car as pristine as possible. I worked up to 2nd place and conserved the car so Stevan had a great car at the end. Stevan then put in a remarkable drive as we waited for those front wheel drive cars to burn their tires a little bit. This was a huge win for myself and the entire team. It was CJ Wilson Racing's first Grand Am victory as a team and I am extremely happy to be a part of it.
Chad McCumbee - Driver of the #3 head & shoulders car:
This was a fantastic weekend for CJWR. Taking both the pole and the win in with our ModSpace Mazdas really showed how strong our team has become. It was a special weekend for me being able to take the pole and lead so many laps; both firsts in my road racing career. I feel this was a pivotal moment in my development as a road race driver. Special thanks to everyone on the CJWR team for a superb job!
Jason Saini - Driver of the #3 head & shoulders car:
I couldn't be prouder of the whole CJWR crew, it's been a breakout weekend for us. Last year we showed moments of brilliance, but this year, with two strong driver lineups, we are going to be a force to be reckoned with. Taking that win in front of the hometown crowd and making a statement there made for a dream weekend. My race didn't go as I had hoped, after Chad brilliantly started from pole and led most of his stint, I was in the lead battle until I spun on a restart. I'm not sure if I got help, I'll wait to see the race broadcast on March 9th on SPEED TV, but regardless, somehow the knock left me without ABS and I had further struggles. When it was all done I was back in 17th, but had a blast coming back forward to finish 7th and I got fastest race lap which gave CJWR pole position, the fastest lap and the win! It was a good points day for both cars, and just a super successful weekend all around. Huge thanks to all our partners, but especially CJ for believing in us long enough for us to get him the results he deserves!
CJ Wilson Racing