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.
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. – Stevan McAleer – Driver of the #5 ModSpace Car
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.