Justin Wilson describes his 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 as a racecar with manners. He’s navigated hillclimbs, and ripped around on tracks and lapping events in this polite little Porsche, so when he heard about the Spectre 341 Challenge Hill Climb, “I just had to do it,” he said. “It was just too good to be true.”
Justin Wilson, 10th Place: 3:33.5
The GT3 didn’t disappoint, despite this being the first time for Wilson and geographically quite different from hillclimbs through forests in Washington. Wilson made the 341 club on the second day of the Challenge by nearly 8 seconds.
There’s not much you have to do to a GT3 in terms of performance, so Wilson concentrated on safety upgrades: roll bar, racing seats and harnesses, brake enhancements.
Going fast has been a pursuit Wilson takes seriously. The general contractor from Seattle has gone fast on jet skis, go-karts and SCCA events. But, he admitted he underestimated the 5.2-mile, roughly paved, off-camber Geiger Grade from Virginia City, Nev. to the historical Comstock Lode mining area.
“It was harder than I thought,” he said. “I researched it, watched videos. It looks flat and wide in those videos.” Flat and wide will never be used in the same Wilson sentence with “Spectre 341.” The organizers gave newbies a trip up the grade in an RV. That trip plagued Wilson throughout Spectre 341 Eve. “I couldn’t sleep.”
Wilson didn’t crack the 3:41 time the first day. The course went away after 11 a.m., too slick for someone trying to learn the course and go fast at the same time. But the second run on the second day, he knew he’d cracked the code. Like any good racer, he figured he could go even faster, but his next lap was red flagged. By the time he got back on the course, it was too slick to better his 3:33.5 time. That’ll have to wait until next year when he comes back with lighter wheels, wider tires, more rear wing and front splitter—in other words, with more grip.
“It’s a cool fraternity,” Wilson said of the group of drivers that took the Challenge. He grew up watching Lou Gigliotti race. “He was my hero,” he said. “And I was in the same race with him.” The two will meet up again in Portland for an event.