Bechtolsheimer (left) and Miller make one of CTSC's most intriguing pairings. Photo courtesy of IMSA

CJWR’s ‘renaissance man,’ Till Bechtolsheimer, reflects on first CTSC year

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SEBRING, Fla. – CJ Wilson Racing has a lot of cool components occurring at this week’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring race.

The team owner himself is now a driver, with CJ Wilson making his race debut in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama in his No. 33 Porsche of Fresno entry in that series’ Platinum class.

Meanwhile in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, Wilson – who himself could be considered a “renaissance man” given his post-baseball career features racing, team ownership and photography – has a driver who also is worthy of the designation in Till Bechtolsheimer, who marks one year since his debut in one of the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports.

Bechtolsheimer is British by nationality, a CEO/portfolio manager in his day job in New York and arguably one of the more intriguing drivers in IMSA given his background.

He’s long been a vintage racer with a love for cars from the 1930s through 1960s, and a veteran of the Monaco Historics races.

He isn’t on social media, and the running joke that’s occurred as a result of that is a number of fun names created using the same “TB” initials but not actually real names – “Talc BrisketHammer,” “Tool Bubbletasker,” and “Till BoogieMonster” being three of several offbeat examples.

The team has also revealed a number of “facts” about Bechtolsheimer, some of which are more factual than others.

But laughter and jokes aside, he’s now become embedded into a modern racing environment, in his first full season in the Continental Tire Challenge and second overall this year.

Bechtolsheimer made his debut in the team’s No. 35 Porsche last year, which he shared with Tyler McQuarrie at Sebring. It was a massive learning experience, as Bechtolsheimer reflected.

“Last year was a lot of firsts, I’d never even raced a car on slicks!” Bechtolsheimer told NBC Sports. “It was pretty overwhelming. The first session I had an off, and damaged the car a bit so I felt pretty bad. But each day got progressively better. We ended up fifth and it was a really enjoyable weekend. But it was jumping in the deep end, for sure.”

Results improved rather quickly for the two of them, with Bechtolsheimer a key cog in back-to-back podium finishes of third at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and second at Watkins Glen, although the latter result was aided by the team’s sister car of Marc Miller and Danny Burkett getting held up by slower traffic and losing a sure win, ultimately dropping to third.

After a fourth in Lime Rock, McQuarrie had a conflict for the upcoming Road America weekend and ST class veteran Justin Piscitell was brought up to GS for what on paper looked to be a special run ahead in the No. 35 car there. The New Balance/Safecraft car took on a special Chicago Blackhawks livery for the Road America weekend and Bechtolsheimer, in just his fifth weekend with the team, had a bit more experience within the CJWR framework.

He’d also had a dynamic start to the race, before contact triggered from two other cars ultimately left him on his roof after the car had been rolled over at Canada Corner. It ended the race before it even had a chance to get going but for Bechtolsheimer, being OK and moving on after that incident was another positive sign in his adaptation to modern racing and a closed cockpit car.

“It was the second lap, and it was my best opening laps of the season,” he explained. “I got caught up in someone else’s accident. It was disappointing from that standpoint. But no one was hurt, car got fixed, and compared to a vintage car it felt pretty solid. Really, it looked a lot worse than it was.”

The No. 35 car returned for the season finale at Road Atlanta, where Bechtolsheimer banked his fifth top-five finish in class in six starts. All told it was a good groundwork laid for 2017, and now Bechtolsheimer has shifted into the team’s No. 33 car, alongside Miller.

McQuarrie made waves for his “race everything” campaign in 2017 but Bechtolsheimer praised Miller’s coaching and teaching ability, and relishes the opportunity to drive alongside the Michigander in the same car this season.

“I learned a lot from Tyler and I really enjoyed racing with him. Last year I was getting coached by Marc to some extent. This year to have Marc’s undivided attention is pretty nice, as we’ve known each other for a couple years,” he said.

Bechtolsheimer has also been impressed by the North American paddock, in terms of the camaraderie of the drivers and the quality of the race tracks.

“It’s just got a very professional feel to it, which is what I was excited about,” he said. “I do vintage, which has a more club-like feel, so I didn’t want to replicate that. I want to grow as a driver as the team grows, and hopefully steps up in coming years.

“The race tracks are just so awesome,” he added. “I grew up watching Touring Cars, Formula 1, so not really Indy and NASCAR. So I didn’t see a lot of the American tracks. I’m a big fan of the 1950s and 1960s era. Here, they rival the best tracks in Europe.

“I’ve enjoyed it. Huge amount of history. The crowds that these races draw is multiple what we’d get in Europe. All that makes for a great atmosphere. To be honest, the thing modern racing that gave me pause for thought going in was, ‘I thought it’d be a more aggressive paddock, and everyone would try to prove they’re the next Michael Schumacher. It’s been the opposite. Great feel, and great people.”

Another running joke Bechtolsheimer has is that he calls each track he’s driven on his “new favorite,” but hails Watkins Glen as his ultimate favorite because of the nature of the circuit and the history there.

The CTSC podium at Daytona. Photo courtesy of IMSA

That said, he rocked it in his Daytona debut at the season opener. Bechtolsheimer advanced through to the lead in his stint of more than two hours, 20 minutes. He and Miller finished second to a sister Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing entry driven by Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels (pictured above), and it was a double CJWR podium with Damien Faulkner and Russell Ward in third in their debuts as teammates in the team’s No. 35 Techemet-backed Porsche.

“It was the most fun I’ve had in the series,” he said. “The fact it was a four-hour race. Doing whatever I did, two hours, 20 or so, it was a lot of time in the car, so I could really settle in. I tried to stay on the back of the McLarens. Then ended up in a position where I could challenge for the lead. Had a great battle with RS1 car. It was surreal… didn’t know what position I was… then my crew said I’m in the lead, so I’d try to stay there!”

The second round of the season takes place Friday afternoon here at Sebring at 3:40 p.m. ET and local time, where Bechtolsheimer is expected to qualify and start the No. 33 car before handing over to Miller for the finish of the two-hour race. Live coverage occurs online at IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio audio coverage.

Liveries from veteran designer Andy Blackmore are below for all three cars. Wilson has had a busy week, having also been confirmed with co-driver Andrew Evans for United Autosports for the 2017 Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup Championship in Europe. The American duo will race a Ligier JS P3 sports prototype in the first full season of the ACO-backed British Championship.

MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Sunday times and notebook

Thompson (90, Exclusive) and Hoogenboom (78, BN) in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.

Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.

COMBINED TIMES

INDY LIGHTS (Best Session)Full Results

Jamin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 5-Nico Jamin, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:15.7173 (Session 2)
2. 98-Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, 1:15.7808 (Session 8)
3. 23-Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing, 1:15.7953 (Session 8)
4. 3-Pato O’Ward, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.0900 (Session 5)
5. 4-Rinus Veekay, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:16.1419 (Session 5)
6. 31-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:16.1585 (Session 8)
7. 31-Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing, 1:16.2491 (Session 4)
8. 48-Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.3285 (Session 4)
9. 27-Anthony Martin, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.5185 (Session 4)
10. 2-TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.8124 (Session 5)
11. 21-Heamin Choi, Juncos Racing, 1:18.1931 (Session 5)

PRO MAZDA (Best Session); Full Results 

Askew. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 8-Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports, 1:19.8142 (Session 5)
2. 79-David Malukas, BN Racing, 1:19.9394 (Session 5)
3. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:19.9815 (Session 5)
4. 1-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:20.0236 (Session 2)
5. 3-Robert Megennis, Juncos Racing, 1:20.1268 (Session 4)
6. 81-Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.1928 (Session 5)
7. 18-Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing, 1:20.2141 (Session 5)
8. 2-Sting Ray Robb, Juncos Racing, 1:20.6289 (Session 5)
9. 91-Nikita Lastochkin, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7001 (Session 2)
10. 80-Kris Wright, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.9930 (Session 4)
11. 82-Aaron Telitz, Team Pelfrey, 1:21.2144 (Session 8)
12. 78-Leonard Hoogenboom, BN Racing, 1:21.3713 (Session 8)

USF2000 (Best Session); Full Results

Keane ended head of queue in USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 36-Darren Keane, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.1424 (Session 5)
2. 22-Andres Gutierrez, Pabst Racing, 1:25.5618 (Session 3)
3. 27-Callan O’Keefe, BN Racing, 1:25.6295 (Session 2)
4. 21-Hunter McElrea, Pabst Racing, 1:25.7021 (Session 5)
5. 31-Rasmus Lindh, Team BENIK, 1:25.7791 (Session 5)
6. 81-Jacob Loomis, Team Pelfrey, 1:25.8514 (Session 5)
7. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:25.8743 (Session 2)
8. 23-Lucas Kohl, Pabst Racing, 1:25.9792 (Session 6)
9. 37-David Osborne, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.9996 (Session 8)
10. 20-Aaron Telitz, RJB Motorsports, 1:26.0042 (Session 6)
11. 80-Michael D’Orlando, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.2295 (Session 8)
12. 37-Jake Craig, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.2452 (Session 4)
13. 25-Elliott Finlayson, BN Racing, 1:26.3668 (Session 8)
14. 32-Jaden Conwright, Team BENIK, 1:26.4557 (Session 2)
15. 38-Max Peichel, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.5058 (Session 2)
16. 33-Myles Rowe, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.6004 (Session 8)
17. 90-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:26.6460 (Session 5)
18. 82-David Osborne, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.6824 (Session 2)
19. 34-Sabre Cook, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.9362 (Session 6)
20. 38-Oscar DeLuzuriaga, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:27.7455 (Session 8)
21. 92-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:27.7750 (Session 3)
22. 24-Zoey Edenholm, BN Racing, 1:28.5449 (Session 8)
23. 93-Jayson Clunie, Exclusive Autosport, No Time

NOTES

Old USF2000 teammates Jamin and Telitz share a high-five. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
  • There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
  • The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
  • Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
  • Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
  • Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
Veekay. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.

Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.