New drivers, partners joins CJ Wilson Racing’s CTSC program

Miller (with helmet) and Faulkner. Photos courtesy CJ Wilson Racing
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Plucky and underrated Irishman Damien Faulkner will be back in the U.S. this year as a new full-time driver with CJ Wilson Racing’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge program as one of several new components for Wilson’s two-car Porsche Cayman GT4 program.

Faulkner’s competed in parts of the last several seasons with Riley Motorsports (2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona) and GB Autosport (first portion of 2015), with his last full-time season coming with GB in 2014.

He’ll share the No. 35 CJWR Porsche Cayman GT4 with fellow new recruit Russell Ward, a 24-year-old rookie to the Continental Tire Challenge series.

The team has announced a new partnership with Houston-based Winward Racing, and Techemet LP, a World leader in automobile catalytic converter recycling and precious metal trading services based in Pasadena, Texas, will serve as primary partner on the No. 35 car. Techemet LP Vice President Bryce Ward is the team’s reserve driver and may race in selected events.

Till Bechtolsheimer, who impressed in a limited first season in the No. 35, will shift to the No. 33 Porsche alongside fellow returnee Marc Miller. Partner announcements for the No. 33 Porsche, which carried ONE Capital and Motor Oil Matters support this year, will be announced at a later date.

Danny Burkett is set to continue with CJWR in an expected additional entry to IMSA’s Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Canada by Michelin series, a series where fellow open-wheel turned-sports car aces Daniel Morad and Scott Hargrove have starred in recent years.

“I’m delighted to get this opportunity with Winward & CJ Wilson Racing,” Faulkner said. “The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge is a series I have followed closely and I’m looking forward to competing at the sharp end of the field alongside my new teammate, Russell. I can’t say enough about him, he already has a lot of speed and he has the potential to really excel in 2017.”

No. 35 Porsche Cayman GT4. Rendering by Andy Blackmore Design; photo courtesy CJ Wilson Racing
No. 35 Porsche Cayman GT4. Rendering by Andy Blackmore Design; photo courtesy CJ Wilson Racing

Team manager Andris Laivins added, “Russell worked with Damien in the Porsche GT3 Cup car last year, and I think sharing an endurance car in 2017 is only going to make that pairing stronger. I believe they are going to have the Techemet No. 35 on the podium in short order, and more broadly, I think they will push, and be pushed by, Marc and Till in the #33 all year, which will make the entire team grow.  We’re facing a resurgent GS field this year, and everyone can’t wait to get to Daytona and get down to business.”

The two-car CJWR team should be a championship contender after Miller and Burkett came second this past season, winning at Virginia International Raceway in August.

The GS field should grow by leaps and bounds this year with the introduction of some new GT4-spec cars, with a 19-car class revealed in the entry list for this week’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”