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CJ Wilson, Laivins Part Ways; Gradient Racing Launched

Acura NSX GT3 entered for COTA 24H; team exploring IMSA, IGTC options for 2019…

Photo: CJ Wilson Racing

Former CJ Wilson Racing team manager Andris Laivins has announced the formation of Gradient Racing, which will compete in next month’s 24 Hours of Circuit of The Americas ahead of a possible GT3 program in IMSA or SRO-run championships next year.

It comes in the wake of a split from team principal CJ Wilson, who will restructure his racing organization around a new operation in Fresno, Calif.

The Austin-based Gradient team has retained its core staff and Acura NSX GT3, which it will enter in the 24H Series event, with Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer set to be a part of the team’s long-term lineup.

Laivins has teamed up with an undisclosed partner in Gradient, which is evaluating an entry into either the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship or Intercontinental GT Challenge next year with its Acura.

“Acura and HPD have been a joy to work with, so our intent for next year is to do more GT3 racing with the NSX, while also entertaining some wider customer programs if we find the right fit,” Laivins said.

“The last handful of months have been quite an adventure working on a new path forward.

“With my partner, we are building on the structure created at Laivins Race Cars, and then CJ Wilson Racing to establish ourselves as a serious GT3 competitor.

“Although Gradient Racing is a new company, the people, infrastructure, and our 15-plus years experience racing at a professional level are being carried forward in the new venture.”

In addition to the COTA 24, Laivins said they could enter another end-of-year event, while finalizing its 2019 plans.

“Obviously Daytona and Bathurst are both very soon and mutually exclusive, so we have a lot of decisions to make quickly,” he said.

“Separately, there has been some interest in IMSA GT4 where we had a lot of fun the last two years.

“I think it’s a really competitive class, a solid value, and we have the infrastructure and experience to run more than one program, so it’s on the table alongside GT3.

“The customer-facing business in Austin will grow as well, as we’ve renewed our focus on regional race client support and serving as a COTA logistics hub.”

CJWR Moves to Fresno Under New Operations

Wilson said he’s moved his team to California as part of alignment with his automotive retail headquarters.

CJWR’s 2019 program and team structure will be announced in the coming weeks.

“In less than a decade, CJ Wilson Racing has grown from a single-car MX-5 team to a Sebring 12 Hour entrant and that has been very exciting,” Wilson said.

“However, with my retirement from baseball and my desire to race myself, Andris and I agreed that I should focus the operations out of Fresno so I can have a closer alignment with my retail franchise brands and my personal goals as a competitor.”

Wilson, however, hasn’t ruled out a future collaboration with Laivins’ team in the future.

“My racing programs have to reflect my automotive retail interests and Andris’ new organization will have significantly less restraints from that perspective.

“With that said, I have no doubt we will work together again at some point down the road.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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