New to IMSA, Juncos Racing continues its growth

January 16, 2019

New to IMSA, Juncos Racing continues its growth

January 16, 2019

Ricardo Juncos rarely backs down from a challenge. After building his team from the ground up nearly two decades ago, Juncos now prepares for its IMSA debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Juncos Racing is the lone rookie team within the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.

Its single car entry goes up against six other veteran sports car teams that are regular win and championship contenders in IMSA and at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Teams always have to start somewhere though, and debuting in the biggest race on the calendar isn’t new to Juncos Racing. The team did the same against long odds at the 2017 Indianapolis 500, with two cars. Now they’ll do the same in IMSA one and a half years later.

Juncos’ introduction to IMSA came midway through the 2018 season. Shortly after a round of meetings in August at Road America, the team announced the purchase of a Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype for 2019.

Juncos debuted at Michelin “On-Track Opportunity” in December. Photo: Michelin North America

After taking delivery of the car, building it from scratch and debuting it at Michelin’s “On-Track Opportunity” in December at Daytona, the team now has a baseline for its maiden run.

It has a young yet poised quartet of drivers. Will Owen and Juncos have a long history from their Road to Indy days. Owen returns to the team as its first full-season driver this year. He’s grown and developed in two years racing sports cars in Europe, and has made occasional IMSA starts.

Rene Binder also has moderate sports car experience at his disposal. The Austrian raced in six IndyCar races with the team last year. He’ll be in for the Michelin Endurance Cup races.

Kyle Kaiser and Augustin Canapino are, for the moment, confirmed for Daytona only. These might be Juncos’ secret weapons. Kaiser, like Owen, grew up with Juncos in the Road to Indy with their run culminating in the 2017 Indy Lights title.

Augustin Canapino. Photo: Michelin North America

Canapino, an Argentine driver, has achieved a bevy of success in his native country’s touring car series and was the team’s fastest driver by a considerable margin at the ROAR Before the Rolex 24 test.

So much of sports car racing is about staying clean and gaining laps, and that’s the first goal for the team this year. As Owen explained, underestimate Juncos at your own peril.

“Ricardo has one of the coolest stories and organizations,” Owen said. “It’s inspiring to be around his leadership. With all the series they get into, it’s super difficult to jump into. The expectations… yes, we won’t do everything great. But if we keep improving, knowing Ricky and how he runs his team, we’ll go from there.”

Will Owen. Photo: Michelin North America

Owen has some experience racing with Michelin tires in Europe, with United Autosport’s LMP2 program. He’s also raced sporadic IMSA races, including three of the four Michelin Endurance Cup races in Daytona, Watkins Glen and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. With United, he has an LMP2 class podium at Le Mans and finished fourth in last year’s Rolex 24.

“We got on the Michelin in Europe part way through, and that was amazing,” Owen said. “They were fantastic in Europe. Same story over here. For endurance racing, that’s perfect. Quick to go fast on, but great to conserve over a long stint. That, Cadillac and Juncos should be a fun package.”

Owen’s growth in sports cars is something Juncos Racing can hope to mirror throughout 2019. Methodical steps generally have yielded further gains. The team learned a lot at the ROAR, and bounced back from an incident with more running and data gathered.

“As a driver I couldn’t be more different,” Owens said. “In 2017, I was getting comfortable with prototypes, driving fast cars. Last year was a year of perfecting that, where I learned get the speed, and how to challenge for wins. Now I feel more ready than ever. There’s so much going on. IMSA has so much going on. Having two years of sports car experience, and 4-5 years of cars, is good.

“It helps to have some IMSA experience, and it’s helpful to be with Juncos who I know really well. I’ve done a Rolex 24 and finished OK, so that gives me some confidence.

“Any new program you have to approach humbly. You have to be open to learning. It’ll be really tough, but we’ll get there.”

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