The restoration project on the Lola Champ Car chassis Justin Wilson drove to his first two victories has reached a perfect conclusion.
Owned by former Champ Car entrant Dan Pettit, his partner in the PKV team, Jimmy Vasser, had used the 2005 Lola dressed in Champ Car promotional colors for nearly a decade as a display vehicle in one of his auto dealerships. Out of curiosity a few years ago, Vasser peered inside the nondescript car, wrote down the chassis number, researched its origins, and found it was the same Lola Wilson used to win in Toronto and again in Mexico with the RuSport team.
Vasser also found Wilson’s custom seat and grips on the steering wheel were in place, and with the permission of Pettit, the chassis was dispatched to Indianapolis, where it underwent restoration using shop space offered by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The goal was to use the finished car as a method to raise $100,000 or more for the Wilson Children’s Fund, which benefits the late Briton’s daughters Jane and Jess.
Led by Wilson’s close friend and former team manager Chris Mower, and all-volunteer team of IndyCar mechanics, engineers, along with Wilson’s wife Julia and the Mower family, returned the car to its original form and livery from Toronto 2005.
Completed in May of 2017, multiple avenues were pursued to sell or auction the car, and recently, those efforts were successful thanks to a generous donation made to the Wilson Children’s Fund by Jonathan Palmer.
Palmer, who helped launch Wilson’s career into Formula 1 and Champ Car, looks after six racing circuits in the U.K. through the MotorSport Vision firm he founded, and with the renowned Donington Park under MSV’s care, Wilson’s Lola was acquired and placed in the legendary Donington Museum.
“Firstly, it’s a huge credit to everyone who was part of the restoration of the car,” Wilson’s brother Stefan told RACER. “Massive thanks to all who made this possible, starting with Jimmy Vasser and Dan Pettit, and Chris Mower who brought the restoration team together, Dennis Reinbold, and everyone—including the companies that donated their services and products—who allowed us to put such an important car for Justin together again.”
Although the Donington Museum recently closed, plans are in motion to move Wilson’s first Champ Car winner to a separate building for public display.
“There were a lot of questions as to what we should do with the car, maybe put it up for auction to help Justin’s family,” Wilson added. “And in talking to people about it, Jonathan Palmer wanted to buy it outright. It went into the museum and it was great to get photos of it from Justin’s fans on social media, and I know Jonathan’s team have a plan to keep the car on display elsewhere at the circuit.
“Honestly, the best news is it’s amazing to have the car stay within our family, so to speak, with the Palmers making sure Justin’s car was able to help Jane and Jess and remain in the public eye. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”