O’Connell Wins, Pilgrim Gives Cadillac First Double Podium of ’11 in Cadillac Road Atlanta Grand Prix
O’Connell keeps Cadillac unbeaten streak at Road Atlanta alive, claims second in GT points;; Pilgrim drives from seventh to claim third place in season finale
– Pole, victory earn O’Connell 2nd-place points finish
– Pilgrim drives around Lindsey for third place in power performance
– Cadillac has won all five World Challenge races at Road Atlanta
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.– If you want to end a season on a high note, you have to do what Team Cadillac did in the final race of the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge: win the pole, lead every lap and win the race. Putting a second car on the podium is icing on the cake.
Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim did just that, with O’Connell leading all 29 laps from the pole in his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and claiming his second victory of the season while locking up second place overall in the GT Series. Pilgrim overcame a slow start to storm back to third place at the end of 29 laps, earning a podium finish and putting his No. 8 CTS-V Coupe up there with O’Connell’s machine for the first time this season.
“It’s always great to win your home race,” said Flowery Branch resident O’Connell in Victory Lane. “These guys at Cadillac Racing have been working so hard this year, and when you finish up the season with the best car you’ve had all year, that’s fantastic. What an amazing hot rod it was.”
O’Connell’s 29 laps led gave Team Cadillac 30 for the season; the only other lap the team led was the final one in the second race at Mid-Ohio in August, which O’Connell also won.
O’Connell held second-place finisher Mike Skeen at bay throughout the 29-lap event, which finished under yellow due to a crash in Turn 11 on lap 28.
“I’ve done 11 or 12 Petit Le Mans, and you have to know how to work the traffic,” O’Connell said. “I was trying to work it to make Mike’s life miserable, and I think he dealt with it really well. It was a good event, and man, Cadillac…you’ve gotta love the CTS-V!”
O’Connell’s pole position on Thursday gave him 15 points, and by leading all the laps and winning the race, he was able to overcome an 18-point deficit to Skeen and snatch away second in the final GT standings.
Skeen closed to within a half-second just once, in the middle of the race, but O’Connell was able to pull away from there.
Pilgrim lined up fourth on the grid, but his car stumbled on the standing start, and by the time he was able to get it up to speed, he’d lost three spots.
“The car almost stalled out completely,” Pilgrim said. “We’ve been launching really well, but it just died for about three beats before I could get it going. I was like, ‘oh, man…’ I knew I had to be patient the rest of the way.”
Pilgrim picked off James Sofronas on the first lap and got past two more cars in the next 18 laps before hooking up in fourth behind Patrick Lindsey. The two had contact at Laguna Seca two weeks ago that didn’t work out well for Pilgrim, but the former Road Atlanta winner for Cadillac had a plan.
“It was a long process,” Pilgrim said. “I had to see what his car was doing. He was faster than I was for the first six or seven laps, and he started to pull away, but he got messed up in traffic and I got messed up in traffic. Once we got going, he was slowing down in some sections and I wasn’t.
“He got loose out of Turn 5, a big slide, and I had a run on him. I kept in it and went around the outside going into Turn 6. He raced me very fair, and I told him that after the race.”
Pilgrim said putting two CTS-Vs on the podium in the same race was a team goal all season.
“That was awesome,” he said. “It was a nice end to the season.”
O’Connell gave credit to Team Cadillac for improving the car all season long.
“[Team manager] Steve Cole, my crew chief Mike West…they do such an amazing job. And I have to thank all the Cadillac dealers, too. I have a CTS-V, and today I’m really digging on my CTS-VR. You couldn’t ask for much of a better day.”
Jim Vurpillat, Cadillac global marketing director, did his driver one better.
“Steve Cole and the rest of the people on the Pratt and Miller team that handle everything for Team Cadillac are amazing,” he said. “They are the professional’s professionals. They work so hard, they put in so much time, and they kept trying and trying, and the proof is here at Road Atlanta. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys and our drivers.”
In the final points, O’Connell finished second with 1,222, 25 better than Skeen in third. He finished with two victories, his first two in World Challenge competition, eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Pilgrim finished fifth in the points, amassing seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He has 10 career victories in World Challenge competition, in addition to a Driver’s Championship.
Behind O’Connell, Skeen and Pilgrim came Lindsey in fourth and GT champion Patrick Long in fifth..
In the manufacturer’s chase, Cadillac finished second behind Porsche, 78-58.
Cadillac has been a leading luxury auto brand since 1902. In recent years, Cadillac has engineered a historic renaissance led by artful engineering and advanced technology. More information on Cadillac can be found at media.cadillac.com.
Cadillac Racing Communications
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