ELKHART LAKE, WI – Milwaukee-based JCR Motorsports gave the hometown fans quite a thrill with a sit-on-the-edge-of-the-seat drive by Jeff Courtney during the first of two races in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class at the Grand Prix of Road America weekend, June 23-25. This, coupled with a class pole by teammate Fred Roberts, provided JCR Motorsports with a superb showing at its home track.
Driving the #99 Kenda/RecStuff.com/JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4, Courtney finished on the podium with an exciting third-place finish on Saturday. On Sunday, for the weekend’s second race, he was involved in a mid-race accident that pushed him back to 31st.
Roberts, driving the #89 RPM Canada/Enercare Wolseley Canada Maserati GT4, got the weekend excitement off to an early start by qualifying for the pole position in the Am class for Saturday’s race. He finished 13, then 15th in Sunday’s race, which was shortened due to another accident.
“I am really happy with our team’s overall effort this weekend,” Courtney said. “There is always a little extra pressure put on the crew to help entertain our guests, family, friends and local fans at our home events and still maintain a high level of car prep and focus (they all did a great job!).
“I also want to congratulate Fred on a great weekend. He is getting up to pace quickly on this new platform.
“I was satisfied with qualifying on Saturday as we were able to lay down a pretty competitive lap early and stay with our plan to conserve our tires for the race. We were pretty sure we could not match the pace of the Panoz of Ian James so we wanted to stay with our race strategy.
“We had a pretty good start but were not able to hold off Lawson’s early charge; he made a great early run and I just did not have enough heat in the front tires at the time to hold him off, but once we got settled down in the race it was ‘game on’ and we had a great battle right down to the last turn!
“I was going into Sunday’s race hoping for a great start as we were starting a little farther back at P6. We moved right into P4 and into a good battle with the # 3 Porsche of Rodrigo Baptista. Once I got by Baptista my mind was just on ‘maximum push’ as I was a bit frustrated with our straight line speed, but I thought our car was better today than Saturday and I wanted better than a third-place place finish.
“Unfortunately I just pushed too hard and probably over-cooked the left front tire and crashed the car. Hopefully we put on a good show! I want to again thank the whole JCR staff and all of our sponsors!”
“We are very happy with our class pole, “Roberts said. “We have to keep adjusting to the new platform and settle in quicker after the restarts. We are still struggling with the lack of ABS but we will adjust to it. Overall, I am looking forward to continuring our positive momentum at Mid Ohio.”
Courtney 3rd, Roberts 13th
Courtney proved why he’s such an exciting racer to watch as he spent the final seven laps of the race hounding Lawson Aschenbach trying to move up from third to second place. Once he went so wide in an attempt to pass he left the main part of the track, another time he moved in so close he could have reached out and shook Aschenbach’s hand and on another bold attempt he actually moved past Aschenbach in a straight part of the track but could not quite get far enough ahead to make the pass hold into the turn.
This battle was so riveting the TV broadcast focused almost exclusively on it until the end. Going into the race, Courtney said he would have to pick his spots and save things up for the end, as the JCR Motorsports cars have no ABS system and he had to be smart about not flat-spotting his tires. He executed that strategy to perfection and while he did not get the second place finish he coveted, he gave the hometown fans a lot to cheer about because of his efforts.
Roberts, meanwhile, made his own bold moves, the difference being his was at the outset of the race. Initially it appeared as if he would pass not just one but two cars, but fell back mid-race due to contact that spun him in Turn 5 (that car was given a drive-through penalty). He eventually settled in 13th place, moved up to 11th by the 10th lap but then fell back to 16th on lap 14. One lap later he was back up to 14th place before finishing 13th.
“Ian (James, the race winner) and Lawson had fantastic starts and I had a little bit of trouble at the start,” Courtney said. “About a third of the way in the race, I flat-spotted the left front tire and had to back off the braking which I think helped me from overcharging. Late in the race, I was thinking I had something for Lawson. I had a couple of runs but could not close the deal.”
“Jeff raced me really clean and fair, which is obviously something you want to see,” Aschenbach said. “I knew it was probably a good show for the fans. I was doing everything I could to keep him behind me.”
Courtney 31st, Roberts 15th
For the weekend’s second race, Courtney came out with the same hard-charging mentality he had on Saturday. It paid off early for him.
He began in sixth position and immediately jumped up to fourth after the standing start, then began a hard pursuit for third. He stayed on the bumper of Baptista and moved into third place on the ninth lap with a clever move in Turn 1.
However, his day ended one lap later when the rear of the car slid out on him in what is known as the Billy Mitchell turn and launched Courtney into the tire barrier. He was going all-out to catch those in front of him while the hometown crowd cheered, and the early end to his Sunday could not take away from his electrifying run on Saturday.
“I was going into today with a go-for-it attitude, “Courtney said. “It just got away from me. It’s all on me but it’s a frustrating day.”
Roberts also moved up two spots on the start, from 12th to 10th, then fell back to the 16th spot. The race ended early on lap 14 because of a crash that required a large cleanup with Roberts in 15th place. Roberts spent the majority of the last half of the race trying to get around the very wide Camaro GT4, which had superior braking and was able to hold his position despite being slower overall than the Maserati.
Courtney’s World Challenge effort is propelled by Kenda Tires along with RecStuff.com, the authority in trailer parts, an online retailer that specializes in trailer tires and wheels along with other components for trailers.
The #89 car has support from RPM Canada; Enercare, one of Canada’s largest home and commercial services and energy solutions companies; and Wolseley Canada, the leading wholesale distributor to plumbing, HVAC/R, waterworks and industrial markets in the country.
The team will next compete in the Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio the weekend of July 28-30.