Wilson awaits return to winner's circle

Justin Wilson has given himself a great shot at winning races in this year's Champ Car World Series by signing for RuSPORT. But despite the recent hype surrounding the team's rapid rise to prominence, and the fact that former Formula 1 technical man David Brown and famed CCWS engineer Todd Malloy are now a serious part of the team's gameplan, Wilson knows it's going to be a challenge

Wilson awaits return to winner's circle

Before he even considers how best to tackle Newman/Haas's dominance of the premier US road racing category, Wilson has to get the better of his new team-mate AJ Allmendinger. The man who beat him to the 2004 Rookie of Year title. A man who graduated with RuSPORT from Toyota Atlantic and who knows the team like its his own family.

But Wilson, who was one of several drivers to be chewed up and spat out by the ill-omened second seat at Jaguar Racing at the end of 2003, can take a different view.

For the first time since he drove for Nordic Racing in F3000 in 2001, when he took the FIA championship title, he can look ahead to a season with a genuine prospect of fighting for victories. Not only that, but he has the confidence of his team boss Carl Russo, a former racer and a man that can give Wilson the nurturing guidance he needs to achieve his full potential. And as for the super-quick, hyper-competitive team-mate. Turns out Allmendinger and Wilson are best friends...

Autosport.com's Simon Strang caught up with Justin Wilson at the Autosport International Racing Car Show in Birmingham, to find out just what Britain's big Champ Car star hopes to achieve in 2005.

Newman/Haas still has the edge, but it's our job to close that down as quickly as we can. We're not expecting to run away with it and the whole thing to be about me and AJ, but I do think we are going to be in there now. I expect it to be tough. RuSPORT has made great strides forward for this season but again, that's not job done, it is the beginning of our development.

There's a lot we are working on in the off-season. Lots of technical adjustments that the team was working on towards the end of last season that they never got to use and we are now going to try them out.

The team seems to have more engineers than mechanics! It's not as big as an F1 team but we have people to cover every area. But what the team has is a real family feel. Everybody pulls together and everybody relies on everybody else. There is an extremely good feel about the team.

It's fantastic to be heading into a season with a team that I can expect to be competitive from the off. They have money, but it's not spent frivolously, the workshop is not as big as some others. The money is spent in the right places.

There is definitely still more to come from me. We are developing the car and as we do that, I can learn more and develop more. But I have a year's experience now in Champ Cars and I have to say that I am ready to race at the front and win races and titles. I am ready and I am up to the challenge.

Lots of people in the paddock came up to me and warned that RuSPORT was AJ's team. But the bottom line is that Carl wants it to be a successful two-car team and he will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

I think it will be very close between me and AJ. He is very quick. He understands what racing at this level is all about and he knows the team very well. He is also very confident in his ability and he's fun to race against. We get on very well and we see eye to eye on how to make the car go faster.

Any good team works well when their drivers are fighting together to beat each other on the track, because then they push the team forward and that is what I expect from us. On top of that because we work well together we will be able to work fast to develop the team.

I'm not worried about the on-track rivalry. We were both involved in contact with drivers during the season but never with one another and we raced closely together quite a lot. At Portland I think we were fighting for fourth and for three laps we were side-by-side, maybe for five corners at a time and it was great. We got out of the cars and laughed about it.

The main reason we aren't going to tracks like Road America and Laguna Seca is simply because Champ Car has targeted places where there are lots of fans to race in front of. Put quite simply we are taking the racing to the fans. Perhaps as Champ Car begins to re-establish itself to where it once was, we will be able to return and have the reputation to draw the fans back to those great tracks.

My focus is on the Champ Car World Series now. As AJ puts it, if you spend 15 years winning races and titles in the States, then you would have to be pretty happy with the achievements in your career. That's how I see it. I haven't ruled out F1, but why would I want to go back unless the situation was right? My goal is now to win the Champ Car World Series, then in the future, if I was invited back to race for a good team in F1, then maybe I would do it.

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