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Justin Wilson’s dream comeback nets Daytona 24 Hour win

Sunday, January 29 2012

Justin Wilson has won the Daytona 24 Hour race, completing the perfect return to racing after spending much of the 2011 season sidelined after sustaining a back injury. Wilson's last stint in the car built up a useful lead and team mate AJ Allmendinger drove to the finish, crossing the line just 5.198 seconds ahead of the second-placed car, driven by poleman Ryan Dalziel.

Wilson, whose career is overseen by MSV Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer, reunited with Allmendinger and Michael Shank Racing, with whom he finished in second place at the race in 2006. It is MSR's first victory in the classic event, after nine attempts and it happened on the event's 50th anniversary. The pair were also teamed with Oswaldo Negri and John Pew in their Riley-Ford.

Despite the race distance, the lead was always in dispute, with Dalziel's Starworks Riley-Ford, shared with Lucas Luhr, Allan McNish, Alex Popow and Enzo Potolicchio, putting them under intense pressure. Both teams were joined on the podium by the second MSR entry that included British F3 champion Felipe Nasr on the driving strength.

Wilson's team was in the fight for victory from the very start and he held a strong lead at three-quarter distance, pulling away from the field. The Starworks team kept the final result in doubt, however Allmendinger ensured that they didn't miss out on the win.

After the race, an ecstatic Wilson confirmed that he was not going to take it easy on his return to racing. "I hoped to be competitive on my return and the goal was to win the Rolex (Daytona) 24," he said. "At the start of the weekend we didn't want to get too carried away and we stayed like this even when we got to the halfway point of the race. I think this is my best victory yet. I've had a few good ones in my career but to win the 50th Rolex 24 Hours, well there are not many people that can say that, it's pretty cool. We were battling door-to-door switching places, it was a lot of fun but very tense too - there was no time to relax. Getting through the traffic was tough but we avoided all the GT cars."

Wilson, who was the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi champion, returned to racing after a practice crash in an Indycar event at Lexington last August. His win comes just days after his return to Dale Coyne Racing, with whom he scored his maiden victory in the US-based single seater series, was confirmed.

"Its a great chance for me in Indycar this year and it all starts on Tuesday," he explained. "I will just go to the first race and try to do the same job. We know as team we can do it and I know my back is ok so I can't wait to go and tackle that."