PARKER, Colorado — Capstone Motorsports, a new sports car racing and motorsports company based in Parker, Colorado, made a successful debut in its first race last weekend at Sonoma Raceway where team co-drivers John Allen and Kris Wilson scored a pair of second-place finishes in the Pirelli GT4 America doubleheader on the 2.358-mile California road course.
Allen and Wilson compete this year in the Pirelli GT4 America "Am" class driving the #16 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4. Capstone and its drivers battled for the class victory in both 60 minute races last Saturday and Sunday at Sonoma where they left with a good foundation of championship points after the twin runner-up finishes.
Capstone carries 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.
"It just feels great to get our new program, Capstone Motorsports, off to this kind of a start," Allen said. "Two podiums is just fantastic. I’m really pleased with how our internship program is coming together. I think we’re really making a difference in the lives of these kids. I love coming out here and working with them. It gives me energy and gives me a reason to keep coming out here. I’m fighting hard to give them experience and fighting hard to get a championship."
Saturday's first 60-minute race highlight was a pair of late passes by Wilson. After a solid race-opening stint by Allen, Wilson took over at the halfway mark and began a charge to the front. He moved into third with just a few minutes remaining and then locked down second-place with a last lap pass.
Wilson started Sunday's final race and opened up a comfortable lead on the Am-class field. Allen took over and maintained the gap until fading tires late in the race saw him slip to second with less than two laps remaining.
"Obviously, for a new team, two second place finishes is not a bad way to start," Wilson said. Of course, first loser is not great but at least we’re on the podium. We’ve got a good base for moving forward. We learned a lot of things this weekend. Compared to last year, we had a really good car in qualifying. This year, we have a good race car, but not so good a qualifying car. So we’ve got to figure out that aspect of it, how to get a better qualifying car so we can have a bigger gap before the pit stop. That’s our mission now."
The Capstone team featured at Sonoma returning UA Engineering intern Oakley Prell and program newcomers Julian Caudillo and Evan Jewson, two more UA Engineering students who will intern all season with Capstone.
In addition to maintaining an interface with Allen and Wilson throughout race weekends, the interns work under the direct leadership of race and championship winning engineer Rick Cameron.
"The interns are doing a great job, and Ricky is leading them the right way," Wilson said. "We’re going to start having them do some homework before we come to the races, that way they can actually contribute when we get here and give us some spreadsheets of what they think we should be doing."
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. Prell is in his third season as a UA intern.
"What’s great about this program is that it does give us that real world experience," said Prell, who graduates from UA next year with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. "We’re at the race track, we’re working on the car and we’re interacting with all of these people out here: the engineers and the business and marketing people, and that’s not something we get in the classroom. We have several automotive design teams through the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Eco Car Mobility challenges, and those are great, but we’re wanting to accelerate and enhance the learning for the students, especially in the field of motorsports. The program that John Allen is setting up through Capstone is really beneficial for us. We're seeing things that not many students around the country ever think of experiencing, so this is a fantastic program."
Next up for Capstone Motorsports in the Pirelli GT4 America series is Rounds 3 and 4 of the series with a doubleheader at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, April 30 – May 2.