Capstone Motorsports, a new sports car racing and motorsports company based in Parker, Colorado, makes its professional racing debut this weekend at Sonoma Raceway in California where team principal and driver John Allen teams with co-driver Kris Wilson in the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX season-opening doubleheader on the Napa Valley road course.
Allen and Wilson compete in the "Am" class in the twin 60-minute races Saturday and Sunday at Sonoma at the wheel of the No. 16 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4. Capstone continues Allen's longtime support of his alma mater, the University of Alabama College of Engineering, with a trackside sports car racing internship program designed specifically to immerse UA Engineering students in the data-driven and technology aspects of modern-day sports car racing.
The establishment of Capstone Motorsports continues an evolution for Allen and the UA Engineering internship program which has been an at-track technical curriculum the last couple of years.
Allen, a 1979 UA College of Engineering graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, was named in 2018 a UA Distinguished Engineering Fellow in acknowledgement of his vast professional, military and philanthropic achievements. It was at that year's Distinguished Engineering Fellows induction celebration that Allen shared his vision for an engineering-based internship program in the high-tech world of modern-day sports car racing.
Active in the sport since 2013, Allen is quick to see the connection between sports car racing and the educational programs offered in the UA College of Engineering.
"Sports car racing today is about so much more than just driving fast and flat out," Allen said. "Along with driver ability, engineering is the most important aspect of success in today's high-tech arena of sports car racing. We established the internship program a couple of years ago to open this world to UA Engineering students that might not be aware this incredible opportunity exists. Establishing Capstone Motorsports is another key step in the growth of both our racing team and the internship program. We can't wait for the season to get started this weekend."
The Capstone Motorsports name was chosen to reflect the team's close ties to the University of Alabama. "The Capstone" is a nickname for The University of Alabama coined by former UA President G. H. Denny when he used the reference, meaning "the top stone or high point," to describe the University as the "capstone of the public school system of the state" in 1913.
The establishment of the team also marks a high point for Allen and Wilson who have been competing successfully together in Pirelli GT4 America SprintX the last two seasons with independent teams. The 2020 season saw Allen and Wilson put together a solid record of six podium finishes in a shortened schedule of nine races, including four class wins at Road America, Sonoma Raceway and a pair of victories at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR). The duo also earned runner-up honors in the Am class in the 2019 Pirelli GT4 America SprintX championship.
Racing for more than 30 years, Wilson won a 2016 Pirelli World Challenge driver championship and has competed on every major racetrack in North America over the past few decades.
“Starting Capstone Motorsports allows us the freedom to really make the University of Alabama engineering internship program an integral part of the team," Wilson said. "We just had a test at Sonoma two weeks ago to make sure we have all our processes in place. Everybody seems to be working well together. Most of the guys on the team were with us last year running the Mercedes-AMG, so we have built a pretty good notebook of setups for the car. You never know how you’re going to stack up against the competition until you get out there and start racing them, but we have a good foundation, and the Mercedes-AMG GT4 seems to do everything well. Only two goals for the year: to win races and the championship. Anything less will be a disappointment.”
A familiar group of experienced and race-winning motorsports professionals joined the Capstone team at its inception. In addition to Allen and Wilson, lead Capstone personnel includes Engineer Grant Barclay, Team Manager Kelly Brown and Crew Chief Eric Madsen. Rick Cameron is another key part of the engineering department and will serve as the main technical interface with the UA engineering interns on race weekends. Jon Berry, who was Allen’s initial driving coach and adviser, has also joined Capstone as Vice President of Finance.
Following practice and qualifying earlier in the weekend, Sonoma's pair of 60 minute Pirelli GT4 America SprintX races stream live for free via SRO’s GT World YouTube Channel. Saturday's opening race goes green at 4:05 p.m. PST with Sunday's second and final one-hour race of the weekend scheduled to start at 10:55 a.m. PST.