The pitch Angels’ C.J. Wilson has to make
for a $1.15 million McLaren P1
- Alex Lloyd, Motoramic
One might say Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson has it all. After a long stint playing for the Texas Rangers ending with his first All-Star game, Wilson signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason worth a reported $77.5 million. Over the past several years, as his success in the major leagues has enriched him, Wilson has indulged in his passion outside of baseball: buying race cars, racing them himself and starting his own race team. He also purchased some of the most exclusive vehicles on the market, and he stands as one of a few 31-year-olds in the world who can afford the upcoming $1.15 million, 903-hp McLaren P1 hypercar.
But first, he had to make a pitch to prove he was worthy.
The McLaren P1 will never become a common sight around the world: the British sports car maker says it will build only 375 P1s, which it touts as the fastest road car in the world, capable of hitting 62 mph in under three seconds. As the eligible customers worldwide far outnumber the available machines, and McLaren wants to keep the cars out of speculators' hands, it's impossible to just wander into a McLaren dealer and sign on the dotted line. To qualify, one needs a list of previously owned cars worthy of Jerry Seinfeld, a wallet deeper than Jay Leno’s chin, and a dedication to the brand akin to Lewis Hamilton (before he jumped ship to Mercedes, of course). None of which guarantees a spot.
Wilson tells me cars have always been his passion. Over his years in the major leagues, he’s owned enough Porsches to start a dealership – including numerous 911 GT3 RSs and a Carrera GT. After his collection outgrew his garage, Wilson had an epiphany:
“I only have one butt and two hands — how am I supposed to drive all these cars,” he joked. “What am I doing with all these things? This is so stupid.”
Wilson decided it was time to sell up and purchase an actual racecar. “If I crash it, it’s a racecar, who cares? You fix it and keep going.”
After selling many of his prized gems, Wilson bought a Mazda MX-5 Cup car – a racing version of the machine auto enthusiasts know to be the greatest affordable roadster on the planet. He then began to race the MX-5 and even started his own race team, gifting young racers the opportunity to prove their skills and use the race team as a promotional tool for his charity work.
Despite his rapidly emptying garage, Wilson kept his prized Carrera GT. He also decided to save space for a Ferrari, but acquiring one became his first introduction to the velvet ropes of the supercar club.
“I did eventually own a used Ferrari 599, but I got dissatisfied by the Ferrari ownership thing almost immediately,” Wilson recalled. “It was like, ‘you have to buy a used Maserati, then you can buy a new Ferrari.’ It was an exhausting process with so many hoops to jump through. I originally wanted a new Ferrari 360 but they wouldn’t sell it me, despite having the cash to drop there and then. After the 599, I vowed never to own a Ferrari again.”
Although Wilson’s love for the Italian brand was tainted, he had a similar affection for the British Formula One team and carbuilder founded by Bruce McLaren.
“I’ve always been a McLaren fan boy, ever since the (Ayrton) Senna days,” states Wilson. “The road car I looked up to as a kid was the McLaren F1. It was completely mind-blowing. I thought that was the best thing ever. It became my focus as a child to one day own that car. The problem is, they cost about $4 million today, and they only made 100 of them. You can’t buy one. You just can’t.”
Wilson decided to purchase the next best thing — the McLaren MP4-12C supercar. While not a hypercar variant like the F1, the 12C ranks as a capable Ferrari 458 fighter that boasts 593 hp and surpasses 200 mph, which Wilson, in true car guy form, drives the wheels off of.
“I use that car almost everyday," Wilson tells me. "I’ve amassed over 7,000 miles already, which is a lot for a supercar in such a short time.”
Wilson was astutely aware that a successor to his adored F1 was imminent — so much so that he began lobbying earlier than most for a slot on the list.
“When the rumblings began, I called up my guy at McLaren and said, ‘I don’t care what it costs, I want that car,’” said Wilson. “This was about two years ago, and at that point, they hadn’t even come up with a name yet. ‘I want the new F1,’ I said. I practically begged the guy. I was the first person in the country that asked to be on the list.”
“McLaren directed me to produce a catalog of cars I’ve owned. I listed the Porsches, Ferrari, and McLaren 12C but was concerned, after my Ferrari experience, that at 31 years old, I might not maintain the diversity of cool cars needed to be eligible. But they replied saying it was plenty and I was officially on the list.”
A while later, Wilson was invited to a preview event in Beverly Hills to mingle with a group of wealthy and famous individuals who were also on the sought-after list. “I wondered why I was there,” he confessed. “I was by far the youngest in the room.”
By this point, Wilson had already dropped a sizable 10 percent deposit on a car he hadn’t even seen and knew nothing about. But that night in Beverly Hills, the sheets came off and Wilson saw the car he had already committed to buy. It did not disappoint.
“It looked like a spaceship,” Wilson explained. “I really liked the flow and the smoothness and I think it’ll age really well. I was so excited to put my foot into 903 hp. I have no idea what that will be like.”
He’ll find out early next year. The P1 should be available in late 2013, but all owners must fly to England for a custom driver's seat; with cornering forces sustained at over 2g, McLaren treats the final delivery process like fitting one of their Formula One drivers. Due to Wilson’s baseball commitments, he probably won’t be capable of flying to McLaren’s factory until November, making a deliver date of his P1 likely to be in the spring of 2014.
How much will he drive it?
“I’ll take it out to southern California on a weekend and rip off like 400 miles,” he says. “It won’t be my daily driver, of course, but I’ll definitely put some miles on it. I grew up with humble roots and I just can’t imagine it sitting in the garage. This will be the gnarliest car ever.”
The purchase of a McLaren P1 hypercar is the fulfillment of Wilson’s childhood dreams. It might not be the F1 from his bedroom wall, but the P1 appears to be every bit its 21st-century successor. Come next spring, Wilson will truly have it all.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life," Wilson says, "to own a car like this."
Former Ranger Wilson makes his pitch
in Grand-Am racing
- John Maher, American-Statesman Staff, statesman.com
C.J. Wilson plans to resume racing once his baseball days are over. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
|Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013||
C.J. Wilson, a former Texas Ranger and current Los Angeles Angel, is not your typical baseball player/professional athlete.
Like a lot of athletes these days he does have tattoos, but the large one on his torso says “Straight Edge,” a reference to his commitment to lead a life free of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and promiscuous sex, in harmony with his Taoist beliefs. The left-handed pitcher studied film in college and can read some Japanese, speaks Spanish and is currently working on Portuguese by chatting with his Brazilian supermodel girlfriend, Lisalla Montenegro.
(From left to right) Andris Laivins, Kathryn Singer, and Jenson Little prepare cars at C.J. Wilson’s car shop for this weekend’s Grand-Am racing at the Circuit of the Americas. The former Rangers pitcher is a motor sports enthusiast.
It’s Wilson’s avocation, however, that really sets him apart
“The hobbies in the locker room are golfing and hunting, depending on what part of the country you are from,” Wilson said during a phone conversation with the
Wilson will be at spring training this weekend, not the
“He is extremely committed to racing as a sport,” said the
Wilson, 32, plans to resume racing once his baseball days are over.
“I believe in working your way up from the bottom,” Wilson said. “I would never race in a series where I was an embarrassment.”
His current function, however, is as an owner of a team that was formed less than three years ago.
The race team’s headquarters are in an unassuming, 8,300-square foot warehouse /garage/office on the east end of town, not far from U.S. Highway 183.
“It looks like a jail from the street. It’s not a very attractive building, but we like to keep a low profile,” Laivins said.
Two large haulers are parked in the back, poised to carry the cars on the short trip to Circuit of the Americas, where the team’s five local employees will be joined by about half a dozen out-of-town workers and four drivers.
The team is based in Austin basically because Laivins, a 32-year-old Dallas native, now lives here.
It looks like Wilson will be back home in California for a while. In December 2011 he signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Angels after playing seven seasons with the Rangers. Wilson grew up in Southern California, where his father worked on the pit crew for a race team.
“That’s where I fell in love with the sport,” Wilson said “Winning a race — just the thrill of passing — you don’t get that in baseball. Baseball is start and stop. Racing is constant. You’re calculating a lot more stuff in racing. In baseball you throw the ball, there’s a result and then … well, you can sit there and tie your shoes.”
Wilson said he first raced on a track in 2006, and in 2010 he was part of the driver rotation that won the E-1 class in the team’s Mazda MX-5 at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, an endurance race held annually at that California track.
“If I was an under-the-radar guy, I would still be racing,” Wilson said. His budding racing career, however, was sidetracked when his baseball career suddenly blossomed and he went from just another guy in the bullpen to a valued starter who was 31-15 in his final two seasons with the Rangers.
In addition to a race team, he also owns a car dealership and a motorcycle dealership in Illinois.
“I’ve got employees. If I get hurt (racing) there’s no safety net for them,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s team runs Mazda MX-5s that are lighter than most of the cars in their class, 2,300 pounds without the driver. With 200 horsepower and a top speed of perhaps 135 miles-per-hour, they’re a little under-powered compared to some of their brawnier competitors. Grand-Am regulates the specifications of the various makes of cars to keep the competition close.
“It’s kind of a small, nimble car, we can go around corners faster, but it’s a harder place to pass than a straightaway,” Laivins said. “Any time we’re at full throttle, we’re at a disadvantage with the other guy. There’s a lot of tracks we go to, like Daytona, where we have no chance.”
Laivins said while the team was leery of two straightaways at Circuit of the Americas, there was a chance the tight turns at the track would be helpful.
He added, “Nobody has raced here before. Nobody has been on this pavement before. I think that spices things up a little bit.”
Mazda CX-5 Tuned By MLB Pitcher CJ Wilson
is a CUV Fastball
|By GEORGE KENNEDY
Posted: October 23, 2012
CJ Wilson is a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Like all of us, when we’re not at work, we have other hobbies and interests. Unlike most others, Wilson’s major league salary means that his hobbies may be of a different echelon than yours.
One of Wilson’s interests is auto racing- Mazdas in particular. The major-leaguer owns CJ Wilson Racing as well as CJ Wilson Mazda in Countryside, Illinois. His daily driver is a CX-5 crossover. Just because he doesn’t drive G-Wagens like some of his coworkers doesn’t mean that he can’t enjoy the same kind of personal touch that helps a daily driver stick out in a crowded parking lot.
To that end, his racing interests and his auto dealership have teamed up to develop the CX-5 Tuned by CJ Wilson. The equation starts with a 2013 Mazda CX-5 GT, and adds a custom coilover package developed with ProParts engineering. The CX-5 features Koni dampers, Breyton 19-inch wheels, BFGoodrich g-force Sport COMP-2 tires, and a MAZDASPEED cold air intake. According to Wilson, “We wanted to enhance the SkyActiv philosophy even more, making a vehicle that was even more fun to drive and beautiful to look at while further improving the already class leading MPG figures.” He continued, “This car is actually my daily driver- so the real key was to make sure that it remained compliant over the potholes and bumps you encounter on real roads.”
Though certainly an enthusiast brand, few vehicles outside of the Mazda3 have been getting the lovin’ touch from MAZADASPEED. With that, its refreshing to see such an approach taken to a car that buyers might not immediately associate with performance driving. In addition, with SEMA around the corner, we know that aftermarket projects can often go awry. It’s refreshing to see a tasteful performance-minded daily driver. With the crossover market burgeoning, hopefully this is the first of a growing trend of refined aftermarket crossovers.
Photo credit: CJ Wilson Racing
BEHIND THE WHEEL | 2013 MAZDA CX-5
Laudable Fuel Efficiency Even Without Electricity
Mazda North America
FRESH FACE The CX-5 is Mazda’s first production vehicle to carry a new design language the company calls Kodo. More Photos »
|By CHERYL JENSEN
Published: September 21, 2012
There is no vehicle more important to Mazda right now than the CX-5.
The five-seat crossover wagon, which went on sale in February, has been the main beneficiary of the company’s research and development efforts over the last three years, making it something of a showcase for Mazda’s strategy and intentions.
The CX-5 carries the full complement of a technology package the company calls Skyactiv, an umbrella for the hardware and processes Mazda says will enable it to meet federal fuel economy standards for the coming decade — and do it without hybrid systems or electric powertrains.
Skyactiv is meant to chart a new course for the Zoom-Zoom company, which is angling to increase its share of the United States market to a tiny 2.5 percent, from today’s minuscule 2 percent. The powertrain portion of Skyactiv was introduced in the 2012 Mazda 3, the company’s best seller, helping that car to achieve E.P.A. fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
But the Mazda 3 was not all-new, and Skyactiv is more comprehensive: it is a philosophy that underlies the engineering of new lightweight engines, transmissions, chassis and body structures. The goal is to create performance-oriented vehicles that are also fuel-efficient.
Other automakers have been pursuing these goals as well, but without formulating a unified approach.
“Where Mazda is different is that there seems to be an integrated approach where Skyactiv covers all the bases,” said Mike Omotoso, senior manager for global powertrains at LMC Automotive, a market research firm.
The diet program has worked. The Skyactiv 2-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine in the CX-5 is 10 percent lighter than the 2-liter engine available in the 2012 Mazda 3 and MX-5 Miata. The manual transmission is lighter by 4.4 pounds, a sign of how determined Mazda’s engineers were to drop weight. The body structure is 61 percent high-tensile steel, making it lighter and stronger, Mazda says.
The CX-5 replaces the Tribute crossover, which was based on the Ford Escape. It is a completely new vehicle that brings nothing from the Escape.
Typically, even vehicles billed as all-new use major components from a previous generation. But Mazda didn’t want what it saw as a “piecemeal approach,” said Tim Barnes, the company’s product planning and strategy director. Among the benefits that came from making a fresh start were fuel economy bragging rights: at 35 miles per gallon, the CX-5 gets better highway mileage than any competitor in its class sold in North America, including hybrid models.
It is a valid claim, though it glosses over some of the fine print.
First, the 35 m.p.g. figure is for the front-wheel-drive Sport with a manual transmission, which Mazda said would account for about 5 percent of sales.
So the other 95 percent of buyers are looking at either 32 m.p.g., if they choose an automatic transmission with front-wheel drive (and 26 m.p.g. in the city), or 31 m.p.g. if they choose all-wheel-drive (25 m.p.g. city). The front-wheel-drive 2013 Ford Escape is rated at 33 m.p.g. highway and the Kia Sportage matches the CX-5 at 32 m.p.g.
On roads around this part of New England I found the E.P.A. estimates for the CX-5 easy to match or beat. On separate trips to Connecticut and New York City, the all-wheel-drive CX-5 test vehicle averaged 31, 32 and 33 m.p.g. on various highway segments.
But fuel efficiency has been achieved at the expense of power, which could be a problem for a company that promotes its Zoom-Zoom image.
The 4-cylinder engine, which uses direct fuel injection, is rated at 155 horsepower and 150 pound feet of torque, and it struggles to move the all-wheel-drive CX-5’s 3,426 pounds. The engine strained coming out of a rest area to merge onto busy Interstate 91. Just before that, it couldn’t handle a long, gradual hill at 65 m.p.h. without the automatic’s shifting down from sixth to fifth gear with only a driver aboard.
In a Motor Trend test comparing the CX-5 with four classmates, it posted the slowest zero-to-60 time, at 9.4 seconds. But perhaps it is unrealistic to expect blazing acceleration from a 155-horsepower engine, especially when all automakers have to meet higher fuel economy figures. Say goodbye to the free lunch.
Yet the lack of spunk is a bit puzzling given that Mazda engineers weren’t forced to use a 10-year-old engine or transmission. And the deficiency is all the more puzzling considering the engine’s high compression ratio of 13:1 — which Mazda boasts is “on par with the world’s highest-performance racecars” — and the free-flowing design of its exhaust manifold.
Mazda could have tuned the engine to produce more than 155 horsepower. But it exercised restraint, said Jeremy Barnes, a Mazda spokesman, to ensure that the CX-5 could use 87-octane gasoline. “Someone who takes into consideration the cost of fuel is someone who would walk away from a vehicle in this class if it required premium fuel,” he said.
Instead, Mazda took advantage of the exhaust system’s innovations to provide a broader torque curve than that of the Mazda 3, although both vehicles share similar peak torque figures.
It is worth remembering that there is more to performance than raw horsepower. When it comes to the handling part of the equation, a driving enthusiast would choose the CX-5 over the Honda CR-V, despite the CR-V’s 185 horsepower and higher torque.
On back roads here, I found the CR-V’s body motions were not as tightly controlled as the CX-5’s, so the Mazda’s handling on winding roads was more nimble and confident. The Mazda’s steering has a fairly tight on-center feel and is predictable. On a really rumpled surface, the CX-5’s ride was a bit choppy, verging on harsh. But that’s a small price for such driving fun.
In the federal government’s crash testing program done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the CX-5 received an overall rating of four stars, with five stars being the best; frontal and rollover ratings of four stars; and a five-star rating for side-impact protection. It received the highest rating, Good, in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s moderate frontal overlap, side, rollover and rear crash protection tests.
Pricing starts at $21,790 for the entry-level Sport model with a 6-speed manual transmission, the only trim level with a manual. The manual-shift Sport is not available with all-wheel drive.
Sport models with a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive start at $23,190. Front-wheel-drive Touring models start at $24,990, and the top-of-the-line Grand Touring at $28,140. Add $1,250 for all-wheel drive.
The total for my all-wheel-drive Grand Touring test vehicle was $30,415 with the $1,325 Technology Package, which includes a navigation system, high-intensity headlights with auto-leveling and adaptive front lighting that worked well on dark roads in rural New Hampshire.
Because Mazda has chosen to aim the CX-5 at the heart of the compact crossover segment where it sees future growth, it has discontinued the CX-7, which straddled the small and midsize crossover segments. But the CX-5 is larger in some important interior dimensions than the CX-7 was.
It has almost an inch more rear legroom and more cargo space. Without folding down the second row seats, we fit in a bulky wheelchair, unwieldy walker with wheels and numerous travel bags. When more space is needed, flexibility is provided by the 40-20-40 split seats.
Controls for the radio, navigation and climate are knobs — and knobs are nice. Unlike Ford’s touch screens, they do not incite anger. The front seats are supportive and well bolstered to keep the driver in place during fun-to-drive moments.
How much of a difference Skyactiv will make to Mazda’s bottom line is the huge underlying issue. Sales of the CX-5 are expected to be in the 41,000 to 45,000 range annually, and Mr. Omotoso of LMC Automotive expects that the CX-5 will increase Mazda’s sales by 5 to 10 percent, which could help the company sell 300,000 vehicles in the United States. That’s not happened since 1994.
Through August, Mazda’s year-to-date sales are up 11.8 percent. The company said its plan for the current fiscal year was — and still is — to sell 290,000 vehicles.
Beyond the practical matters, purchase decisions often hinge on visual appeal, and here Mazda has given the CX-5 a fighting chance with a new styling theme it calls Kodo. It has been shown on design studies before, but the CX-5 is its first use on a production vehicle.
Kodo translates roughly to “soul of motion,” which Mazda says is about capturing power and focusing on proportions with a more sophisticated overall look. As expressed in the new grille alone, the Kodo theme gives the CX-5 a far more attractive appearance than other Mazdas; it will show up on the 2014 Mazda 6.
The CX-5 is a welcome addition for crossover drivers who want some sport along with utility — and good fuel economy as well. They just need to practice a little patience.•
INSIDE TRACK: Less zoom, more room and plenty of fun.
Wilson pairing with car dealership, White Sox
- Anthony Andro, FoxSportsSouthwest.com
Los Angeles pitcher C.J. Wilson owns a Chicago area car dealership that sells to customers who are hoping their White Sox can beat out the Angels for a postseason spot. (Courtesy, C.J. Wilson Racing)
|August 14, 2012||
No one has ever accused Los Angeles pitcher C.J. Wilson of solely being focused on baseball.
The Angels All-Star left-hander also dabbles in photography, music and auto racing just to name a few of his hobbies.
Auto racing is one of the many hobbies of
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson.
(Courtesy, C.J. Wilson Racing)
Now you can add the title of car dealership owner.
Not just a car dealer either, but one in the Chicago area that sells to the same customers who are hoping their White Sox can beat out the Angels for a postseason spot. If that weren't enough to rile up White Sox fans, the dealership is the sponsor of the club's postgame radio show and an in-game promotion.
While Wilson owning a dealership in the Chicago area that sponsors an opponent's radio show sounds strange, the purchase of C.J. Wilson Mazda was an opportunity too good for the left-hander to pass up.
"The opportunity to own a dealership is rare," said Wilson, who is 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA for the Angels. "It doesn't come up very often. But it's also the golden goose. It's a like a five-tool outfielder under team control."
And much like Wilson's teammate Mike Trout, who is that five-tool outfielder under team control, car dealerships are hard to come by. Wilson began talks about acquiring what was then Autobarn Mazda of Countryside after the 2011 baseball season ended.
Wilson, who has ties to Texas from his playing days with the Rangers and is a California native, got hooked up with the old owner of the dealership in Countryside, Ill., through his ties with racing.
It took longer to close that deal than it did for Wilson to sign a five year, $77.5-million deal with the Angels. That could be because there's more at stake with the dealership than with baseball, at least in Mazda's eyes.
"I think Mazda approved me because of my racing team and they have a little bit of faith that my contract's going to get paid," said Wilson. "It lets them know that the people working for me are going to get paid too. The negotiation between me and the seller was much quicker than the approval process. It's buying a business with lots of employees. There are a lot of hoops and a lot of legal things you have to go through."
Wilson had a relationship with Mazda already because of the racing team he owns, C.J. Wilson Racing. His teams drive Mazdas when competing in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Series and the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series. He believes that helped push the purchase of the dealership along.
When Wilson acquired the dealership, it already had its contract with the White Sox in place. C.J. Wilson Mazda played a big role in the Angels' series against Chicago Aug. 3-5.
"They (the White Sox organization) think it's hilarious," said Eric Vates, the general manager of C.J. Wilson Mazda. "When the Angels were in town, we had a pregame tailgate party. Friday night we had something for C.J. Wilson Children's Charities. We had a bunch of kids at the game set up through a local hospital. The Sunday we took the whole dealership there. On the marquee in centerfield for each of the three days we had five to 10 ads saying the White Sox welcome C.J. Wilson Mazda. He got ribbed by his teammates."
Wilson has no problem with the partnership with the White Sox either. He joked that he'd like to set up an advertisement with manager Robin Ventura and a Nolan Ryan lookalike, bringing back memories of their famous dust-up on the mound.
The only part of the sponsorship Wilson hopes to avoid is being involved in the 'Drive of the Game', which is the big highlight for the White Sox radio broadcast.
Not only is Wilson benefiting financially from having one of the largest Mazda dealerships in the Midwest, it's also helped his race teams.
"Cars are a really deep passion of mine," he said. "It helps my race team. It's a two birds with one stone thing. We can use the race team as marketing. And it's a Mazda thing. We also have a chance to complete projects much faster because we have a big shop."
Wilson hopes to add more dealerships in the future but knows it won't be easy. A BMW dealership in Orange County sold for more than $100 million when it was up for sale. Restrictions also limit how many dealerships can sell the same cars in certain areas, making it even harder to find them.
But Wilson, who attended the dealership's grand opening when the Angels were playing the White Sox, already sounds like a car salesman.
"We're the biggest dealership in terms of volume in the area," said Wilson, whose dealership slogan is 'Not Your Typical Car Guy. Not Your Typical Car Dealership.' "We're going to do things the right way at the dealership."
|FROM CHICAGO TRIBUNES’S ON BASEBALL, JUNE 25, 2012||
1. Rangers (1): Clinging to top spot a week ago,
16. Pirates (15): Pittsburgh would have been a good landing place for Youkilis. The Pirates were among the teams on the periphery of the trade talks.