IndyCar Test Notes: Justin Wilson building chemistry with new crewmates

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Considering the cold, misty conditions that impacted the last two days of Verizon IndyCar Series testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Justin Wilson reckons that when the series goes back there in late April for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, “probably half the things we think we learned will get thrown out the window.”

Nonetheless, Wilson did a solid job this afternoon and was second-quickest today in the No. 19 DCR Honda at just .0038 of a second behind Team Penske front-runner Will Power.

He said that he plans to take the result “with a pinch of salt,” but is still pleased at how he and a whole new cast of characters at DCR – led by new engineer Michael Cannon – are getting along ahead of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 30.

“We like the progress that we’ve made to the car and the work that the team is doing,” he said. “It’s a complete new set of guys, working with Michael Cannon, that just keeps getting better and better every time we run.

“The last two days have been all about gelling as a team, coming together more than anything else, so I think that helps us going into St. Pete.”

Wilson led the Honda contingent, which for the second day in a row split the Top 10 testing times with Chevrolet-powered drivers.

Among the other Honda drivers in the Top 10 were Takuma Sato (fourth, 1:07.3314), Ryan Hunter-Reay (seventh, 1:07.4495), James Hinchcliffe (eighth, 1:07.4639), and Simon Pagenaud (10th, 1:07.5235).

Jack Hawksworth landing in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda may have been somewhat of a surprise, but the young British competitor has acquitted himself well as the fastest rookie in the Barber test.

Hawksworth posted the 12th-fastest time overall in the combined two-day run at 1:07.6542. He was also able to run 100 laps across the two days, gaining valuable track time as he prepares for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in less than two weeks.

“We had a really solid couple of days,” Hawksworth said of his test. “The weather made it difficult because of a few stoppages, but it’s our first test together on a proper road course – Sebring’s more of a street circuit track – and I thought we worked through some really good stuff today.

“The BHA guys did a really great job and I’m pretty happy with where we’re at. We’ll make a couple of tweaks but I’ve not seen anything yet that worries me, so we’re in good shape.”

Another rookie, Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz, ran the most laps of anyone during the Barber test with 121 laps in total. Overall, he was 16th-fastest in the No. 34 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda (1:07.9437), but the Colombian feels like the best is yet to come.

“I’m definitely more comfortable at this test than previous ones…I think we’ve made a lot of progress, and today was better than yesterday,” Munoz said. “Each time I get in the car is better than the last, so I’m just really looking forward to St. Pete.”

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.