James Winslow is confident that he has turned a corner in his maiden Cooper Tires presents Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda campaign, and will be looking to challenge for the podium as the series brings road racing to the Autobahn Country Club circuit near Chicago this weekend.
Having secured a late opportunity to join the US open-wheel feeder series with Conquest Racing at Sebring in March, Winslow has endured a frustrating season, having raced a different car at each round to date, but now appears to have found some continuity as he remains with the crack Genoa Racing operation for a third race weekend.
The reigning Australian F3 champion enjoyed his best outing to date at Lime Rock Park last weekend, claiming seventh place despite revealing that he was losing more than half a second in one section of the short layout. He was sufficiently encouraged, however, by his front-running pace in the remaining sectors to predict that he would be challenging for a top three finish at rounds seven and eight in Illinois.
“We didn't get much track time in the build-up to the race, resulting in oversteer at the high speed first turn - and I lost 0.6secs in this one corner alone,” he reported, “On the rest of the circuit, made up of slow to medium speed corners, we had good pace, and I was fastest overall in the remaining sectors. I was 0.5secs off the best lap of the race, and knowing where that was lost gives me confidence for the rest of the season.
“It was a big step forward in performance for the CARS Motorsport-backed entry, even with the turn one issue, and we are looking forward to the Autobahn double-header, especially as it comes with a test day. There were a combination of things that went against us at Lime Rock, and the team was pleased with the performance in light of that. The new chassis is a step forward, so we only need to lose the misfortune that has been plaguing us so far this season and we will be knocking on the door of the top three. I'm feeling very positive about the weekend ahead.”
Chasing his fourth championship title in as many season – having won the Asian and Australian F3 series either side of taking the Renault V6 crown – Winslow is confident that he can be a factor at the 21-turn, 3.56-mile Autobahn, which hosts a major open-wheel series for the first time this weekend.
“Even though I am racing against drivers with 3-4 years more experience in this series, it should be more of a level playing field this weekend,” he claimed, “I've always been good at picking up the nuances of new venues and, even though I'm in my first year of racing in the USA, I'm looking forward to running at the front, and know that the Genoa team can give me the car to do so. This is where my 2009 season really begins – I'm confident that we'll be on the podium this weekend!”
Following in the footsteps of previous CAMS Gold Star winners-turned-IndyCar stars Scott Dixon and Will Power, Winslow is looking to move up the US open-wheel ladder. Having already impressed during a Champ Car test in 2007, the Briton is hoping to move up from Atlantics in 2010, with an eye on the IndyCar Series.
“This is just the first step on what I hope will the road to a bright future in the USA,” Winslow admitted, having recovered from the bout of measles that also hampered his Lime Rock weekend, “Having missed out on the chance to race in Champ Car when the series merged with the Indy Racing League, I am more determined than ever to make a career over here.
“If we can continue to improve between now and the end of the season, I am sure that we will open a few eyes in the series above us and, if that happens, who knows what the future will hold….”