C.J. Wilson Racing’s Stevan McAleer put on a show during last week’s Continental Tire Series race at Sebring International Raceway where he drove from the back of the grid – thanks to a minor technical infringement in qualifying – to pick off 15 cars on the opening lap in his Mazda MX-5. If that feat wasn’t impressive enough on its own, McAleer and co-driver Chad McCumbee would eventually carve their way to a second-place finish, traveling all the way from 57th overall on lap 1 to 19th and P2 in the Street Tuner class after 2.5 hours of racing.
One of the great joys in racing comes from watching a fast car slice through the field, which McAleer described in detail for RACER below:
We had a fantastic car all weekend. Crew Chief Andris Laivins is amazing with what he does, the car was on rails! The important thing was that I had to give the car to Chad McCumbee without any damage so whatever that took, if that meant being 11th, 12th, 20th or second, that’s what I was going to do. But it was a lot of fun out there just picking my way through them.
On the first lap I touched one of the Hyundais and bent the mirror and I had my hand out the window fixing the mirror and then realized that the glass was still pointing at my so as I was looking at myself! This is Chad’s first time as the finishing driver this year and he deserves credit for bringing it home in second place. We think we had something for the ST class winners, but we needed a couple more laps at the end to have a shot at it.
Notes on the Start:
Turn 1: Expectations here were to keep the eyes up and look for trouble. The door opens up on the right on the normal line so I brake as late as possible to jump the Hyundai.
Turn 2-3: Originally I was looking to follow the Porsche on the inside but he waits too long and last minute and an opportunity opens up down the right hand side into the braking zone of Turn 3. I don’t think it was too risky a move but it only gains me 1 position on the Porsche initially, until the BMW messes up in front of me and I clear him in Turn 4.
Turn 4-5: All single-file here so holding ground and looking for good draft from cars in front down into Turn 7.
Turn 7: This is where it gets fun. The No. 11 BMW goes for the fully inside line and makes it four wide. I am looking for openings elsewhere but they don’t appear. At the last second I go behind the BMW and gain a further two places. This was fairly close to being some contact but I’m on the inside so they more than likely give me the line. Had to be careful here not to run over someone or have someone behind drive over me. Tough corner on first lap.
Turn 10 – Small mis-shift out of Turn 8 gives a Porsche the run on me but I have the inside for Turn 10 so out-brake him.
Turn 11-12: This was my favorite part. I tracked out fully from Turn 10 after clearing the Porsche which gets me a massive run on the BMW and Nissan fighting side by side. I clear the BMW just before the inside of Turn 11. I continue still fully committed accelerating and when the Nissan gets checked up I refuse to lift and run round the outside of him. He is trying to squeeze me to the outside to save the position but I know I will be clear and already have planned my move on the Compass 360 Honda for Turn 13. He defends as expected but I only need a car space so I take it.
Turn 13: After clearing the Honda I get a run on the BMW and Hart Honda leading into the fast double apex left hand corner. The BMW lifts on the inside so I follow the Honda and run round the outside of him.
Turn 15-16: Glued to the bumper of the Honda leading into the braking zone he tries to cover the line but leaves me two car widths so I out-brake him. Cars are still fighting for position ahead so I gain on the next Porsche mid-corner and out-brake him into 16. I clear him but the Cayman has more power so he and the Honda both pass me on the outside of the long back straight.
Turn 17: I out-brake the Honda and almost the Porsche. One Honda in front is offline so that one is easy.
Lap 1: 31st to 16th
Lap 2-9: 16th to 2nd
Lap 10 – End of stint. Chased the leader from 12 seconds down to 4.8 seconds down
As I got relayed back information from the team that we were entering the top-10, this is where the drivers started to make me work a little more. I still made sure the passes were done quickly but safely as they would defend a little harder sometimes. Around lap 6 I had some high engine temperature warnings and brakes were starting to get very soft. This was simply because I had been around cars the entire time so the car didn’t get the cold air it needs to cool the brakes and engine. This was the toughest part as the brake pedal feel changed every corner. Not every lap every corner! So I wanted to be extra careful that I didn’t end up running over the top of someone being enthusiastic about a pass.