LEXINGTON OHIO – It is always a busy and exciting weekend for JCR Motorsports when the team travels to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The team’s long-time sponsor Kenda Tires is located in nearby Columbus, and JCR Motorsports hosted several of the company’s executives and employees, giving them an inside look at the Pirelli World Challenge GTS series and the team’s two drivers and cars, Jeff Courtney in the #99 Kenda/RecStuff.com/JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4 and Fred Roberts in the #89 RPM Canada/Enercare Wolseley Canada Maserati GT4.
The weekend began on Wednesday when the team took part in Maria’s Message, a safe driving day for Columbus teens in which Kenda is heavily involved, and it continued through the two race days on Saturday and Sunday. It ended with a spectacular demonstration of the team’s and Courtney’s determination that resulted in a well-deserved 6th-place finish for the #99 car.
“It is always great to be back in Ohio to show our appreciation of the great support and partnership we have enjoyed with Kenda over the years,” Courtney said. “Kenda is a great company and is involved heavily in its community.
“This is our second year helping Kenda and others including the great driving instructors from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to try and raise awareness for Maria’s Message. This is a great cause and something I totally believe in, so we are honored to be involved and hopefully helped to spread the message about distracted driving.”
Courtney and the crew certainly gave everyone at Kenda a lot to cheer about on Sunday. Courtney showcased his combination of smooth driving skills and tenacity as a racer to finish sixth – a seeming impossibility when the day began given the circumstances – and earn the race’s Hard Charger Award.
The team had taken some punches during the first race on Saturday, but like a heavyweight prizefighter shook it off to shine on a sunny Sunday. Courtney was forced to start from the back of the field but steadily moved up in a textbook example of race car driving. He was smooth and he was fast. He deservedly won the Hard Charger Award for moving up eight spots.
This was perhaps best demonstrated on lap 27 of the 35-lap race when he made two brilliant consecutive passes to move from 8th to 6th place. By the end, Courtney was turning faster lap times than the race leaders.
Considering what took place the previous day this was a remarkable achievement. In Saturday’s race, after watching teammate Roberts being taken out of the race in a violent opening-lap crash caused by another competitor’s over aggressive, ill-advised move and after a lengthy caution period, Courtney would unfortunately suffer a similar but less dramatic fate by also being knocked out of the race by another driver.
But the team rose to the challenge and to get the #99 Kenda/RecStuff.com/JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4 back on the track and to have such a great result on Sunday was almost as rewarding as actually winning the race.
“Obviously Saturday was a big blow to the team and honestly I was gutted for Fred, who had such a great qualifying and was so looking forward to a great race!,” Courtney exclaimed. “We were all very thankful that Fred was not more seriously injured. But with everything that was going on the whole team did a great job of rallying together and not only getting my car repaired in time for Sunday morning’s race but making it competitive, as well.”
Roberts began his weekend in grand style, qualifying on the AM pole and actually starting one spot ahead of Courtney on Saturday. It was the second consecutive class pole for Roberts, who was beginning to show he would be a serious challenger for top finishes in his class and in the GTS series.
But just as suddenly as his day began, it ended for Roberts. Driver Rodrigo Baptista, starting behind both Roberts and Courtney, made a controversial and highly questionable move at the start by going off the track trying to pass several cars. Instead, he crashed hard into Roberts, sending the JCR Motorsports driver into the wall.
The hard hit broke the car’s suspension and Roberts and the #89 RPM Canada/Enercare Wolseley Canada Maserati GT4 were not just knocked out of Saturday’s race but were also unable to race on Sunday.
“It all started so well for us coming into Mid Ohio without testing and working hard to capture the class pole for the second race in a row,” Roberts said. “We are quite frustrated that a ‘red mist’ moment by another driver not only ended our day but most likely our season.
“Beyond our car written off, we have a careful road to recovery that we take seriously. We thank everyone for reaching out after the incident and it shows how caring the racing community can be.”
The next Pirelli World Challenge GTS race is the Grad Prix of Utah, Aug. 11-13.
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.