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CJ Wilson’s epic month features Spa, Le Mans, McLaren gamer challenge

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The post-baseball life is not bad for CJ Wilson, who’s racing full-time now that he’s retired from Major League Baseball.

Wilson races domestically in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and he’s also racing with United Autosports, co-driving a Ligier JS P3 with Andrew Evans in the Brands Hatch, Spa and Snetterton rounds of the Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup Championship.

Wilson had his Spa debut earlier this month in the LMP3 car. A further link-out recapping Wilson’s month of European adventures is here.

More recently Wilson, who owns several automotive dealerships including McLaren Scottsdale, has partnered with McLaren’s recently launched “World’s Fastest Gamer” competition to create the CJ Wilson Racing 570 Challenge, powered by McLaren Scottsdale.

The five-race series runs in July and August at Daytona, Sebring, Road America, Sonoma and Road Atlanta, with qualifying beginning July 3 on Forza Motorsport 6 for the XBox One.

“Racing is unlike any other sport, for example there is no way to accurately simulate baseball whereas the entirety of your driving inputs and controls can be tweaked and honed online and judged or graded,” Wilson said in a release.

“You can race in the simulator exactly as you would at Silverstone, COTA, or Monaco. While competing at the highest levels of Motorsport is a completely unique experience- with today’s simulator and even console technology- the merging between simulation and reality is closer than ever.”

Executive Director of McLaren Technology Group, Zak Brown added, “McLaren group is committed to bring Motorsport to new audiences, and having CJ on board is another step in this process.”

The full release is linked here via CJWR, and here via McLaren. A video that explains “World’s Fastest Gamer” is above; the ultimate achievement for gamers is to become McLaren’s sim driver.

Wilson was also at Le Mans this year for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. We’d advise you to view his Twitter feed, @Str8EdgeRacer, for all the festivities he took part in over the year.

McLaren wins raft race, loses point, sees Alonso in stands at Canada (VIDEO)

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It’s been a roller coaster 24-plus hours for McLaren Honda, as it seemingly has been for most of this 2017 Formula 1 season.

Fernando Alonso entered the weekend saying McLaren would need to be winning by September for him to continue into 2018, then said “why not?” about an IndyCar bow during Saturday night’s telecast from Texas. Further comments from McLaren Technology Group executive director Zak Brown described the McLaren and Honda relationship at a ‘fork in the road’ and almost at the point of no return.

On track, Alonso lost a bit of time in Friday’s first practice with a hydraulic issue, and he then qualified 12th on Saturday. Stoffel Vandoorne was 16th.

Joy on Saturday evening and more heartbreak on Sunday afternoon followed at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as part of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

BRIEF JOY ON SATURDAY IN F1’S MONTREAL ‘RAFT RACE’

For a brief moment on Saturday night though, there was joy in the McLaren Honda world. Formula 1’s new owners Liberty Media have sought to bring back some fun or revived items to the F1 paddock and one of them was the usual mechanics’ “raft race” that takes place in the river basin behind the paddock on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal.

McLaren Honda for once in 2017 could say they won – and forget for a moment that neither Mercedes nor Ferrari took part. McLaren Honda still beat the rest of the competitors. Here’s a quick video of that and some still shots of the glory.

NEAR POINT COMES UNDONE, AGAIN

Alonso was poised to score his elusive first point of the season, running 10th in the waning stages of the rest. Both Toro Rossos had retired as had Max Verstappen’s Red Bull; meanwhile Alonso was ahead, on track of potential points scorers Haas with both its cars and Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, which are usually in-and-around the minor placings.

Alas, Alonso stopped with just four laps to go and radioed in, once again, “engine.”

It cost Alonso a point and was his third stoppage on track inside the final 10 laps this season, joining Australia and Bahrain. He of course skipped Monaco to race in the Indianapolis 500 – where he also stopped with a Honda engine failure – but in six Grand Prix appearances this year, he has a 12th at the Spanish Grand Prix, four DNFs and one DNS (Russia).

Today, after Alonso retired, rather than wallow in agony (publicly anyway) he headed instead to the grandstands in Montreal to be with the fans. He wanted to throw his gloves from the track, but decided to mingle with the people instead.

“Well, I thought to give the gloves to the guys there! The grandstand was too far. So I won’t get there if I throw them. So I go a bit closer!” Alonso told NBCSN’s Will Buxton.

“Once I was there, I couldn’t go back to the bike! It was fun. We have so much support from the fans in Canada. I felt we needed to give something back.”

Asked whether his going into the stands was aided by his IndyCar odyssey, Alonso responded, “probably.”

He also added of the day itself, “Yeah I guess, for the guys (it hurts). Tenth place won’t change my life. After 16 years it’s 1 point. But they’re working day and night preparing every single day. You want to do the best result for them. So frustrating. Jenson had the power unit change in Monaco so he was starting last. So now we start last in Baku. It’s quite difficult.”

Vandoorne finished 14th. The other high for the weekend for Alonso and McLaren was a garage meeting with Michael Douglas, who was along for a photo of Alonso being presented with a picture of being first at Indianapolis when he first took the lead there on Lap 37, as he’d requested.

McLaren, Honda ‘never been so close’ to parting ways

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McLaren Formula 1 racing director Eric Boullier says the team has “never been so close” to parting company with engine partner Honda as it considers its options for 2018 and beyond.

McLaren and Honda rekindled their historic partnership in 2015, but the results of the Senna/Prost era have been a world away as the power unit has lacked both performance and reliability, leaving the British team at the foot of the constructors’ championship.

Executive director Zak Brown said earlier this week that McLaren and Honda were nearing “a fork in the road”, with the mounting problems prompting the team to consider whether its commitment to Honda is worth extending.

Speaking in Montreal ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Boullier echoed Brown’s comments, saying that the relationship has never been closer to breaking down.

“We have never been so close to that fork. The performance went backwards,” Boullier said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“We have the support from our executive committee to sort this out because we can’t go on like this, going backwards.

“Like any professional organization you sit down and say ‘we have to speak about targets, speak about commitment’, and we can’t miss targets constantly.

“That is where the fork in the road comes from.”

The recent frustration out of McLaren has come as a result of Honda failing to deliver a power unit update for Canada, with the team’s own chassis development appearing strong.

“Our own development program is totally independent from the engine side. We were expecting an engine update for this weekend, and all the discussions we have now are the result of not having it,” Boullier said.

“It’s not about disappointment. It is about frustration. When you don’t have results at a team like McLaren, that is frustrating.

“But it was never only developing an excellent chassis but also developing the company and despite all the stories around us, the poor performance on track and so on, we have an excellent spirit in the team.

“As I just said it is not about disappointment, but all about frustration.

“There is a point now where we need to have the same commitment and efficiency from our partners.”

Brown: McLaren, Honda nearing ‘fork in the road’

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown says the British Formula 1 team is nearing “a fork in the road” with engine partner Honda amid continual struggles and delayed upgrades.

McLaren and Honda rekindled its famed partnership from the late 1980s and early ’90s in 2015, but has failed to enjoy the same kind of form that yielded multiple world championships in the past.

McLaren ailed to ninth place in the constructors’ championship in 2015 as Honda tried to get up to speed with its rival engine manufacturers, and made improvements that lifted the team to sixth the following year.

However, an attempt to redesign the power unit layout for 2017 appears to have backfired, leaving McLaren at the foot of the constructors’ championship with zero points after six races.

Relations between McLaren and Honda have appeared strained for some time, but both parties have been firm in their commitment to one another in the past.

Speaking to Reuters, Brown admitted that the struggles were now taking the partnership close to breaking point, revealing that the update promised for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix has been delayed.

“Honda’s working very hard but they seem a bit lost. We were only told recently that we wouldn’t have the upgrade coming, and we don’t have a definitive timeline, which is concerning because the pain is great and we can’t sit around forever,” Brown said.

“We were eagerly awaiting this upgrade as were our drivers and it’s a big disappointment that it’s not coming. It’s not lack of effort, but they are struggling to get it to come together.”

Brown said that McLaren’s upper-management has made clear that it cannot afford a repeat of this season in 2018, prompting the team to consider its options.

“The executive committee have now given us our marching orders. We’re not going to go into another year like this,” Brown said.

“I don’t want to get into what our options are. Our preference is to win the world championship with Honda. But at some point you need to make a decision as to whether that’s achievable. And we have serious concerns.

“Missing upgrades, and upgrades not delivering to the level we were told they were going to, you can only take that so long. And we’re near our limit.

“There’s lots of things that go into the decision and we’re entering that window now of ‘which way do you go when you come to the fork in the road’.”

Capito returns to Volkswagen after brief McLaren stint

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Volkswagen has announced the return of Jost Capito to the company in the role of managing director following a brief stint with McLaren.

Capito headed up Volkswagen’s motorsport for four years, overseeing its domination of the World Rally Championship before joining up with McLaren as racing CEO last summer.

Capito had been due to work under group CEO Ron Dennis, only for Dennis to resign from his role following a boardroom struggle at the end of last year. McLaren confirmed in February that Capito would also be leaving the team after five months.

Volkswagen has now confirmed that Capito has rejoined the company in a senior management role.

“With effect from June 1, 2017, Jost Capito is to be Managing Director of Volkswagen R GmbH and Volkswagen Zubehör GmbH,” a statement from Volkswagen reads.

“Volkswagen R GmbH is the competence center for design- and performance-oriented products of the Volkswagen brand. Volkswagen Zubehör GmbH develops and markets vehicle accessories throughout the world.

“Jost Capito succeeds Ulrich Riestenpatt gt. Richter, who had been managing director since 2009. Mr. Riestenpatt gt. Richter had already become the Plant Manager at Osnabrück as Speaker of the Management Board and Managing Director, Technical, of Volkswagen Osnabrück GmbH in October 2016 in parallel to his other responsibilities.”