Miller (with helmet) and Faulkner. Photos courtesy CJ Wilson Racing

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

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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.

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.