SONOMA, Ca. - John Allen Racing and team co-drivers John Allen and Kris Wilson continued their winning ways at Sonoma Raceway this past weekend where the duo drove the Rearden Racing-prepared No. 16 John Allen Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 to victory in Saturday's Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race.
The middle round of three 60-minute SprintX races in a packed weekend of SRO Motorsports Group America competition, the Am-class victory was the third win for the No. 16 team and drivers since the restart of the 2020 season last month at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).
Starting driver Wilson took control of the race early and pitted from the class lead for the team's driver-change pit stop. Allen took over and briefly battled in the overall top 10 while defending the Am-class lead all the way to the checkered flag.
The victory made up for a frustrating loss in Friday's opening race. A pit speed violation penalty knocked Allen and Wilson from contention and took away what was on pace to be another victory or at least top-three finish.
"Saturday's race win was great, but we came close to making it two for the weekend," Allen said. "I had a good drive in the first two races on Friday and Saturday, and we would have won the first one too, but I had a penalty for speeding in pit lane. If you don't shift down to first gear, the pit road speed limiter doesn't work. So, when I punched the throttle, the car just took off. I knew that, but when you don't drive the car for a few weeks, you forget stuff like that. It was still a good drive, we kept up the pace, and Kris fought back up through the field after he served the penalty, which cost us about 45 seconds. We would have been P1 by 28 seconds or so, but instead we were P4. Those things happen, and we learned from it."
In addition to working directly with Allen, Wilson and Rearden Racing, the interns benefitted from the vast and winning experience of Rick Cameron, a career professional motorsports engineer. Cameron is the father of reigning Daytona Prototype international co-champion driver Dane Cameron.
In Sunday's finale, a repeat of Saturday's win looked possible before a seatbelt issue during the team's driver-change pit stop put Allen back into the race deep in the GT4 field. Despite another pit-related disappointment, the team persevered to a second-place finish.
"By the race on Sunday, I would say our Mercedes-AMG GT4 was the best it had been all weekend long," Wilson said. "It was a good progression, but it didn't start out that way. Friday's race, we just totally screwed up by speeding in pit lane. Everything went well for Saturday's race, including our pit stop, and we got the 'W' there.
"Sunday, I honestly don't know what happened. We had a pit stop issue where the belts got hung up, and John ended up going out in a swarm of bees and got thrown off there. That set us back, and we were fortunate to finish second."
Allen and Wilson have won three of the six races held since SRO Motorsports restarted its 2020 season at VIR in July following a several months pause in the fight against COVID-19.
The victories are the first professional wins for team principal and driver Allen, who is a 1979 University of Alabama College of Engineering graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.
In support of his alma mater, Allen - who in 2018 was named a UA Distinguished Engineering Fellow - started a UA College of Engineering sports car racing internship program that was in full force at Sonoma.
The four UA College of Engineering interns joining the team included mechanical engineering majors Oakley Prell, Noah Greer (Formula SAE), Blake Swoffored (Baja SAE) and Stephen Thomas (Crimson Racing Team Manager).
"We brought Rick in this weekend because he's local and we had all the interns from the University of Alabama College of Engineering here," Wilson said. "So, we doubled up on the engineering staff to teach the interns the technical side of the business, got the right work done on the car and didn't feel bogged down by too many things. Together we found something that worked after struggling early in the weekend with the right setup, and the interns were part of the entire process."
The Sonoma weekend marked the halfway point of the 2020 season, with three weekends in the books and three more race weekends to be run.
"We have won three of the six races since the season restarted but missed the season-opening race at Circuit of The Americas in March," Allen said. "We'll need some luck in the championship points, we need more wins, and we will keep chasing it."
John Allen Racing and the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX series next return to action at Road America, August 28 - 30