Justin Wilson poses with his new Jaguar F1 car after his transfer from Minardi in late 2003. (Image source: motorsport.com)
In what seems a rather telling, albeit pathetic endorsement of the current plight 'O Indy Cars; on the heels of Schmidt & Co taking James Jakes cheque over Conor Daly's talent, another perennial Open Wheel Racing driver found himself facing an uncertain future in the sport as the 2015 IndyCar season was set to commence...
And while this trend isn't new, and will inevitably continue, nevertheless, it shouldn't have occurred to one of the sport's best known drivers, a multi-time winner, Balls-to-the-Walls 'Twisty Speed Merchant, total Fan favourite, safety leader and all around affable Good Guy!
As I'd remained loyal to whom I'd affectionately called Justin B-I-G' UNIT Wilson for over ten year's! Having first become smitten with the lanky Brit 'Wayback during the early Champ Car Dazes, circa 2004-05, which I've tried briefly chronicling in;
Yet as I mentioned in the story above, I actually was first introduced to JW' at Suzuka Circuito where he was partnering Mark 'Handlebarz Webber at Jaguar during the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix, ironically his final start in Formula 1; racing against the likes of then utterly dominant 'DER TERMINATOR's (M. Schumacher) fire breathing Scuderia Ferrari!
As my funniest memory of Justin, who reportedly is still the tallest driver ever in F1, then at 6-feet 4-inches, with Jaguar team-mate Mark Webber, another "Six Footer," (6' 1") both dwarfed Scott "Scooter" Pruett whom they sandwiched between them during a publicity "Photo-shoot" for Ford's Jaguar.
Pruett was then racing the XKR Bud Light sponsored Trans Am car for Paul "Goofy" Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing team, with Pruett rocketing to the TA title by obliterating the field with eight of eleven wins en route to his third Trans Am crown!
As this long forgotten image was part of the PR exercise blitz "FoMoCo" (Ford Motor Company) was piling on for the '03 United States Grand Prix; but I digress...
Alas, it'd be by sheer good fortune, when one of the "Premiere" Open Wheel Racing sanctioning series, nee Champ Car World Series (CCWS) actually attempted promoting itself in the Pacific Northwest in regards to its yearly Father's Day race at Portland International Raceway, that Wilson was dispatched to the Seattle Roadster Show in March, 2006 at Qwest Field, where I'd lament that both the Seahawks and Champ Car were then in Quest of success; Hooah! Having the good fortune of meeting Justin in the flesh - and practically having all to my own...
|Justin Wilson's autographed "Hero Card" from the 2014 Sonoma IndyCar race. (The Tomaso Collection)|
As Justin was then a two-time winner and most definitely a Rising Star in CCWS, whom for Mwah was a refreshing alternative to le 'Hamburgular, nee Sebastain Bourdais. Especially since Justin never MOPED! Like SeaBass did, nor did Wilson ever throw anybody underneath the proverbial Bus.
Hence, of the few times I can count on one hand. When Justin was "Hot" underneath the collar, the driver in Question most appropriately deserved Justin's ire!
As I still chuckle today over Ryan Briscoe recalling how after the two had collided and he was gonna give Wilson a piece of his mind. When the lanky Brit extracted himself from the cockpit and towered over the Aussie, Briscoe thought to himself it would simply be better to walk away...
And Y'all remember Dario "REO Speedwagon" Franchitti's glowing Quip towards Justin, right? When Dario said something to the effect of the following during an Indianapolis 500 media day outing:
"God Help Us if Justin ever gets a competitive ride!"
As Justin never truly got the break he deserved, but it never disparaged him publicly, having driven for a "Who's Who" of racing teams, typically ones with lesser budgets vs. Open Wheel's Stall harts Penske and Ganassi, the latter of whom I still bristle at, as Wilson got harangued for bringing in Cheeps' then leading Daytona Prototype when Wilson heard something go Bang! And ultimately finished runner-up, in what I always wonder if it was an audition for an IndyCar seat?
Thus, surely it was even sweeter winning the Rolex 24 for Michael Shank Racing alongside his good friend, ex-RuSport team-mate and co-driver A.J. Allmendinger for the 50th running no less! As Justin won for RuSport, Newman Haas Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing, before sadly perishing just weeks after his 37th birthday driving for Andretti Autosport in what can only be described as a Freakish accident!
For which understandably, his wife Julia went away for this year's Pocono 500 IndyCar race weekend to grieve privately over the loss of her husband and father of their two girls.
And although I couldn't see them, I was happy to hear Simon, one of the Hosers' accompanying me this May at Mother Speedway, that he'd seen tons of people wearing the exact same BAD ARSE' WILSON! T-Shirt I was wearing that day in my own 'lil tribute to this great person!
As I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but Justin struck me as the type of person who'd be the first to tell Sage Karam that it wasn't his fault and that he shouldn't carry any remorse...
As it now only seems fitting that Justin was at the controls of the Andretti Autosport racecar when they ran it in Rolling Stones livery during Carb Day, (2015) for which that year's Indy 500 was the final time I saw him race in person...
As Thanks for the memories Justin!
Champ Car Wins
2005 Molson Indy Toronto: Toronto, Canada; Temporary Street Circuit
2005 Gran Primio Tecate: Mexico City; Permanent Road Course
2006 West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix presented by The Brick: Edmonton, Canada; Temporary Street Circuit
2007 Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix Powered by Audi: Netherlands; Permanent Road Course
2008 Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone: Belle Isle, Michigan; Temporary Street Circuit
2009 Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen: Watkins Glen, New York; Permanent Road Course
2012 Firestone 550: Texas Motor Speedway; Oval