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Rest In Peace Justin Wilson (1978 – 2015)

When I was writing my little tribute to the late Jules Bianchi after he had passed away from his injuries sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix a little over six weeks ago, I told myself that I hope it’s the last time in a long while that I would have this sick feeling in my stomach of realizing that a great racing driver and a great person has left. Unfortunately, motorsports has and will always be a dangerous sport and another great driver and a great person has been taken away from us. And it’s another guy who I think very highly of and that of course is the late Justin Wilson. Just saying that feels weird for me.

I’m still in shock as to what’s happened. For those who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of IndyCar racing and have followed the series since 2005 very closely. I don’t think I’ve missed one race since that day, be it on the TV, a live stream on the internet or delayed on YouTube. I was watching the Pocono race on Monday morning because I couldn’t stay up enough late Sunday night for the race live. It was a pretty good race, one of the better oval races I’ve seen. 6 or 7 cars wide racing? It was brilliant. Then came 21 laps to go when race leader Sage Karam crashed. Parts of his car was flying and his nosecone hit Justin Wilson’s helmet and he went straight into the crash barriers. At this point, I had no idea that he was in a coma but I knew something wasn’t right as he wasn’t moving at all. And then the news came a day later that Justin Wilson had passed away. Life just isn’t fair sometimes. He was just a brilliant driver who finally had a drive with one of the top teams, albeit a part-time deal, in IndyCar and then this happens. I feel horrible for his family and friends, I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now, especially his two young daughters. I can only hope for the best for them at this difficult time.

I first heard of Justin when he won the F3000 championship that year (which is now GP2), beating the likes of Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais to the championship. Those two happen to be two of the very best around so it shows the quality JW had. It was always tough for him to fit in those cars being a very tall guy but he finally had his chance in Formula One with Minardi in 2003 and then moving to Jaguar for the second part of the year, scoring one point in Indianapolis. He never really had a proper shot to prove himself in Formula One.

He did do just that in ChampCars and more so in IndyCar. In the first year of the unification, he got a win at Detriot for Newman-Haas Racing. But the team ran into trouble financially so he joined the underdog minnows, Dale Coyne Racing. That’s when he proved how bloody good he was. He gave that little team their first ever win in 25 years at Watkins Glen. After a stint with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, he came back and got them another win in Texas. And on an oval too.

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Justin Wilson in Sonoma 2012. Picture taken by me.

I was really pissed when I heard Justin didn’t have a full-time drive in IndyCar for this season. I remember asking, why isn’t someone as talented as him and Ryan Briscoe not have full-time drivers in a top motorsports series? Sadly it’s all about the money now and guys with the talent can’t just rely on that which is very very wrong. At least both of them got a part-time racing deal and have proven themselves once again why talent > money. And just before that Pocono race, Justin scored a 2nd place finish at the last race in Mid-Ohio! For a part-time driver, that is quite brilliant. He was even leading that Pocono race right off the start and for bits of it. Andretti had been doing better ever since he showed up with two wins for Ryan Hunter-Reay. I was really hoping this would give him a full-time ride with Andretti but sadly that won’t happen.

I’ve had the privilege to watch Justin race twice, both times at Sonoma in 2012 and 2014. And once again he was his impressive self, finishing inside the top 11 for the little team Dale Coyne Racing. In between those races in 2013, he actually finished on the podium in 2nd place in Sonoma. It was just exactly a year ago on this date (24 august US timing) that I last saw Justin Wilson in action at Sonoma. He stopped on track at the end of the race and gave me one of my best pictures I’ve taken of any racing car. He had also walked past me before the start of the race, which was the closest I’ve got to meeting an IndyCar driver at any point. But as he was in the zone, I did not want to disturb him. Even if I had done so, I knew he’d be ok with a quick picture, that’s the kind of guy he was. And to think that exactly one year later, he would succumb to his injuries from Pocono. Life is too short sometimes and very unfair. It always seems as if the best people are taken way too soon. I said that about Dan Wheldon and Jules Bianchi and the same can be said for Justin Wilson.

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Justin Wilson in Sonoma 2014. Picture taken by me.

I will always have the biggest of respects for these racing drivers. They are true heroes, risking their lives to achieve success in motorsports be it to win a race or just to finish it. No-one can match these guys and gals in my view. These guys accept the danger and get on with their racing jobs, I will always have respect for every and any racing driver for that, be it someone who I’m a fan or even if it’s someone I don’t really like, I have nothing but respect for all of them. Especially the guys who drive in IndyCars, which some may say is the most dangerous of the lot because of the speeds they do especially on the ovals. These guys are true heroes to me. So to lose another one is quite hard to accept.

JW is easily one of the best drivers I’ve seen in an IndyCar. It’s a shame that he never got the opportunity in a full-time top team ride he fully deserved. If he had one, I am sure he would have been an IndyCar champion. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how he was a great person and having seen him in the flesh in Sonoma and how friendly he was to his crew and the people around him, I can attest to that. Justin, you were a great driver and an ever better person. Thanks for the memories, especially that win in Watkins Glen in 2009, Texas in 2012 and much more from your time in IndyCar and Formula One. Godspeed JW, you will be missed.

Rest in peace Justin Wilson.

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2012: What a great year

So in less than two days time, 2012 is history and 2013 is the now. I can’t say I’m looking forward to 2013, nothing real planned apart from study, study and yeah, study! Kinda like 2011 for me, work, work and yeah, work! So just as I wasn’t looking forward to 2011, it’ll be the same story for 2013. Just wanting to reach 2014 and hopefully start a new chapter in this crazy life of mine. I got to do many things in 2012, mostly the mid part of the year, and many memorable moments as well.

Didn’t really do much for the first two months apart from checking out the Singapore Air Show for once, which was kinda cool. Not often do you get to see aviation displays so why not? And it wasn’t just displays in the exhibition hall, there was one in the skies too, which was great to see.

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The last time I went on an overseas trip was just before I started serving the Army, that being my one month stay in Canada (Vancouver and Calgary). So it was nice to have a short trip overseas away from work for once, spending a week during March in Melbourne, Australia, which was my first time back down under since 20 years ago (I was just 2 years old when I visited Sydney). Really had a good time in Melbourne, great city and got to see most of downtown Melbourne and also the Great Ocean Road. And of course, I was there for another reason, the 2012 F1 Australian Grand Prix. That was my fourth F1 event (second watching the actual race live) and the first time outside of Singapore.

Gotta say the whole event in the Albert Park circuit was great, a must go for anyone who are into cars. Lots of racing action and car displays, I think I saw about 500 cars at least on display. The good thing about the Aussie GP, you actually get to see the drivers (F1 and V8 Supercar drivers too) on the Thursday (or other days for non-F1) for the autograph sessions, and walk the pit-lane if you have a pass (which I did). Had some good seats for the race at the Schumacher stand, and Jenson Button won it, and he’s my favourite in F1 these days, so all good for me!

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For April, I didn’t do much again, but I did get to visit Genting Highlands for the first time in almost 10 years (I think), and I had my fun there, with all the rides and everything else. I had to wait an hour to do a freaking go kart race, the main thing I was looking forward to, and you need a passport to do even ride them, which wasted my time even more. The delay was due to weather, after all, we’re in the moutains, it was hazy and raining. So I had my go-kart run in the wet weather, and that was fun!

For the most part of January to July, I was still serving the Army, just counting down to the magical date, “August 1st 2012”, the day of my freedom. 2011 was a crazy year of too much work, so I slacked most of the time in 2012, doing whatever I needed to do and just wanting to get out of that horrible place I call my camp, full of idiots and only a few good people there. So yeah, August 1st came, I did my medical on the same day as my ORD date, did the usual things, and that’s the last time I’ve been there! FREEDOM!

And two days later, I’m back at Changi Airport for my second trip overseas (3 if you count Genting in Malaysia, but my second flight, which is still the most I’ve done in a year ever, 2 flights), and off I went to California, USA to stay with family there for nearly 2 months. Had an awesome time there with my awesome family, got to see Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Burbank, Santa Monica and many more. I love it there, I hope I can move to North California soon. Would love to stay at San Francisco, the weather at the Bay Area is just wonderful there.

What would you do if you’re near Los Angeles? Go to Disneyland of course! Even for the bunch of us who went there, and not kids anymore, still a great place to have some fun. I got to see an IndyCar race too for the first time over in Sonoma, and the show there was awesome. Was as good at the one in Australia for the F1 race there, which means better than Singapore. And for my first live IndyCar race, the guy who won it had to be Ryan Briscoe, the same guy who got me into watching IndyCars in the first place and will always be my favourite driver in IndyCars. That was his first win in two years, and his last win for Team Penske. At least I can say I saw it live! Wish I had more time to explore San Francisco other than checking out the obvious, the Golden Gate Bridge, hopefully I’ll be back soon!

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Back home by September, and on the second day, had to go to my new school for some rubbish orientation program. They are incredibly boring. And yes, late September in Singapore can only mean one thing, Singapore Grand Prix. Fourth straight year catching the action, second time watching the full weekend live, and for the first time, had walkabout tickets to go to every zones. Worth the money for sure, got to see a lot of good action for zones I hadn’t been to before. Good show as always, too bad I took the wrong spot for the race, view was blocked the whole time! Got to see Maroon 5, Katy Perry and Noel Gallagher’s high flying birds in action. Noel being my favourite musician of all time, that was awesome even though I didn’t get to see him for all that much because of the F1 scheduling. Still, I finally saw him live! As for the other two, became fans of the other two from their shows. Sebastian Vettel won the race again, so that made it three races I watched this year, all won by drivers I’m fans of.

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From October onwards till November, study and more studying in my new school at SIM. Back to studying Accounting, it involves numbers in some ways, I like dealing with numbers, so why not? Slacked for the whole of December playing games, with school starting in January (first day back had to be on my birthday huh?). It’s been a great year, visiting some cool places, good some stuff, enjoying my time with my family in America, watching fast cars three times, and most of all, free of any stupid orders! 2012 probably has been one of my better years, 2013 will probably be the year I just concentrate on studying, no plans to go anywhere yet, so hopefully 2014 will be another enjoyable year again! Next up for me, to know how it feels like to be a 23 year old!