Justin Wilson is looking for work

Indycar Racing News

Plenty of drivers are on the market this winter looking for work in a cash-strapped environment. One of the most notable is 30-year old Brit Justin Wilson who has proved his worth in America over the past five years. Wilson was a frontrunner in the dying years of Champ Car, regularly winning races and finishing third in the ‘05 Champ Car series and second to four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais in ‘06 and ‘07. Justin did these things despite a series of internal upheavals in the RuSport team, which was sold by team founder Carl Russo at the end of ‘06 to Paul Gentilozzi and Dan Petit.

After challenging Bourdais for the ‘06 and ‘07 Champ Car titles Wilson was hired last winter by Newman/Haas/Lanigan. The tall, gentlemanly Brit seemed to have found the right home at last and sure enough he helped lead the team through a tough first year in the IRL with a lack of parts, testing and resources. Still, the team was competitive in most road or street races with Graham Rahal scoring an excellent win at St. Petersburg near the start of the season and Wilson driving a relentless race to beat Helio Castroneves at Belle Isle in Detroit near the end of the season.

But because of Indy car racing’s poor position in the US media market in these difficult times Carl Haas has been unable to sell any sponsors on backing his team. As a result Haas had to let Wilson go at the end of last season. Many people believed Justin was a natural to fill Castroneves’s seat at Team Penske but with that job going to Will Power there’s a chance that Wilson will be without a competitive ride this year.

“Right now, there are lots of things cooking, but nothing’s too hot,” Justin remarked this week. “All of these things are in the early stages. There’s nothing very advanced. Every team’s in the same boat. There’s a number of them that would love to run me but they’re all looking for money. It’s quite frustrating.

“I’ve just got my head down working away on things. I’m trying to make sure I don’t leave any stone unturned and cover every angle. Obviously, the goal is to be back in IndyCar and I want to be in a team so I can go and win races. I feel I’m capable of winning the championship but you have to have the full package to do that. It’s so competitive that you can’t turn up with a weak car with a strong driver or a strong car with a weak driver. So I’m just working away at it and trying to stay fit and healthy.”

Justin went to the Rolex 24 hour test earlier this month to see if there were any prospects of a drive in the Grand-Am series. “I talked to a few people there but it’s the same situation,” he commented. “Everyone’s looking for money. It’s quite interesting what’s happened. The Grand-Am paddock has shrunk a little bit, but it’s the most stable of the three series I’ve been looking at. It’s the most cost-effective of the three series and I guess that’s why it’s the most stable right now. IndyCar has shrunk a little bit, but there are still things happening, but with the ALMS it’s hard to get in touch with anyone right now. The ALMS field has shrunk considerably and there’s a lot of uncertainty there.”

Wilson does not plan to go to Daytona next week as a spectator for the Rolex 24. “I’m probably not going to go to Daytona unless I have a drive, which doesn’t look likely,” he added. “There’s nothing more frustrating than being at a racetrack watching when you want to be in the car.”

Justin is an excellent driver. He’s a fluid stylist who’s very sharp technically and a natural team leader. He’s also a true racer and it will be sad for both Wilson and the sport if he’s left on the sidelines this year or compelled to drive for a second or even third-rate team. Here’s hoping some good luck shines its light on Justin. Nobody is more deserving.

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