Following the untimely death of Justin Wilson nearly two years ago, a philanthropic fund was set up to benefit his widow Julia and their two daughters, Jane and Jessica.
The Wilson Children’s Fund, dedicated to ensuring the long-term financial security for Julia and the two girls, has reaped benefits of an online auction, one that’s helped sustain them during the difficult transition at their adopted, Colorado home.
Now another item is being offered to benefit the Wilson Children’s Fund and it’s a doozy: the car this lanky Briton drove to his first two Champ Car victories with RuSport has been restored as a mutual effort by members of the Indy car community. The Lola B05/00 chassis Wilson used to earn victories at Toronto and in Mexico City during the 2005 Champ Car World Series season has been restored through the efforts of more than a dozen contributors of time and parts.
The idea for the restoration of this machine began in January of this year, when former PKV Champ Car team co-owner Dan Pettit and his wife Kathy - who owned the Lola - graciously donated the car to benefit these children. Former PKV co-owner Jimmy Vasser, who used the car as a display vehicle in one of his auto dealerships, together with the Pettit’s, were looking at the car, wondering what to do with it.
Vasser decided to research the Lola’s history late in 2016 and soon discovered that it was the same car that Wilson used to achieve his first American victories, after transitioning from Formula 1 to racing in the United States. Since PKV purchased RuSport in 2006, the chassis remained in PKV inventory when the series merged with the Indy Racing League in 2008; it was considered Pettit’s inventory.
Once the chassis identity was revealed, Pettit and Vasser decided to restore the chassis back to its original condition and make it available for purchase to help the Wilson family. “It has been our dream to help Justin’s family in some meaningful way and to say thank you for all the joy he brought to us,” the Pettit family stated. “For some unknown reason we kept one of our old cars from the racing team When Jimmy Vasser suggested we donate it with the proceeds going to the Wilson Children’s Fund, we thought it was brilliant.”
Completing the restoration
In order to complete the restoration, the Lola chassis had to travel from the west coast to Indianapolis. Nasser and former KV Racing team manager Chris Mower began searching for a base to perform the overhaul and found shop space at Dreyer & Reinbold, Wilson’s team for two seasons. Mower and others began a complete teardown, refurbishment of mechanical and electronic components, painting to the CDW livery used by Wilson at Toronto (his first Champ Car victory) and reassembly of the rolling chassis - less engine - took place over the past few months.
Not only does the mint Lola B05/00 chassis represent an important vehicle in Wilson’s racing life, it also carries items he used, such as his sculpted seat, seat belts and molded steering wheel. Wilson’s race-used driving suit, left inside the car, will go to its eventual new owner with the full blessing of Julia Wilson, who assisted with the Indianapolis restoration.
“When Jimmy (Vasser) approached us with this idea,” Mower, who was Wilson’s team manager on two separate occasions said, “we felt very honored to be involved in restoring this car, such an important part of Justin’s motor racing history. More importantly, my wife Marianne and I were graced with the titles of godparents to Justin’s daughters Jane and jess, so to help on this project and aid our goddaughters’ future was an opportunity we can’t help but feel the big man himself may have steered our way.”
Mower had a large group from the racing community that donated their time, fully recognizing Wilson built his American career on mutual respect and admiration with the community over 12 years. “We had amazing mechanics and engineers who completed the teardown and rebuild on their time off. They included Richard Howard, Tim Finley, Michael Cannon, Josh Junge, Ryan Stott and my wife Marianne,” Mower continued.
“We must thank TJ Eacret at Passport Transport for delivering the car at cost from Las Vegas, Dennis Reinbold and Chase Selman at DRR for giving this project a home, KV Racing for providing equipment and hardware for the rebuild, Alex Londe from Can Am Cars for providing all the original Lola parts we were missing for the rebuild and Ken Kane from Sherwin Williams, for donating all the paint.”
A large number of Indianapolis-local race teams and businesses added further depth to the benevolent project. “With Sherwin Williams’ help, the car went to Tod Weed at Indy Paint Shop, who completed the awesome paint job. Justin’s dear friend and RuSport manager Jeremy Dale provided the original livery rendering and paint code numbers,” Mower said. “Kathi Lauterbach chased down missing files for the graphics we needed and Nick Ford, together with the graphics crew from Chip Ganassi Racing, produced and applied all the decals.
“Bill Lefeber at IS-Motorsports rebuilt the steering wheel to original specifications, Mark Williamson at Performance Tire and Bridgestone donated and mounted the new set of Bridgestone tires and, at the very beginning Jeremy Shaw researched and confirmed the history to validate this was, indeed, the chassis that Justin drove to his first Champ Car win. Every contribution, at every step was so incredibly important - and now we’re finished.”
The completed Lola B05/00 chassis will either be offered by auction or be available to a direct buyer, but that decision has not yet been made. It will be determined following Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500. For further information about the fund, go HERE.
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