O’Connell Wins Pole for Cadillac Road Atlanta Grand Prix, Final Round of Pirelli World Challenge
O’Connell Earns 2nd Pole of Season, Pilgrim 4th on the Grid
– O’Connell Seeks 2nd Place Points Finish on Friday
– More power helps CTS-V Coupes catch rivals
– Pilgrim looks to lock down top-5 finish in points on Friday
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Team Cadillac made a powerful statement in qualifying Thursday for the season-ending Cadillac Road Atlanta Grand Prix at Road Atlanta.
Driver Johnny O’Connell earned the pole position for the 60-minute finale on Friday, clicking off a lap at 1:21.896, pipping Mike Skeen’s Corvette as the two traded fast laps in the early going. It was his second pole of the season for Team Cadillac.
The two were together on the track as the session wore on, and O’Connell used Skeen as a measuring stick. “When I’d crest the hill, all I knew was the yellow car had to be closer to me,” O’Connell said of his lap. “It was a good lap, and it’s great for the Cadillac guys.” Skeen was second at 1:22.243 in a Corvette.
O’Connell was third in the first practice session and jumped to the top spot in Thursday’s round, posting a quick lap in his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe at 1:22.886 to top rival Skeen—with whom he is battling for second in the series driver point standings–by more than two-tenths of a second. In qualifying, he nudged that to .347 seconds.
Andy Pilgrim was right behind the two leaders until late in the session. He wound up fourth at 1:22.577, nearly a second quicker than his time in practice.
“We had a bit of a push in qualifying and that slowed me down a little bit,” said Pilgrim. “It was a good lap and we have a good starting spot, so it turned out all right.”
“I think we should be good,” O’Connell said after the session was over for the Pirelli World Challenge cars. “I think the neatest thing about this team is how we’ve improved the car for every race. This being my home circuit…gosh, I know how to get around this place and if I can’t get around here, I can’t get around anywhere.”
The two Team Cadillac cars provide the bread for a Corvette sandwich on the standing start. Skeen and teammate Patrick Lindsey will start second and third, respectively, with another ‘Vette (Eric Curran) in fifth.
“The second half of the season, the most dominant cars have been the Corvettes,” O’Connell said. “We might have closed the gap to them some, and at Cadillac Racing, we’re always going as hard as we can, so we’ll continue to do that and see what happens.”
Pilgrim tried some set-up changes in the first practice session, but was not happy with the result, and after re-setting the car to where it was, went out and put up a big number in the second. He followed it up with a better number in qualifying.
“The car turned very well all day, and that’s important here,” Pilgrim said. “We tried some adjustments in set-up for practice that my engineer wanted to get some data on. It’s a good spot for the start and hopefully, we can keep that going for tomorrow’s race.”
Pilgrim, who won here for Team Cadillac in 2006 and won the last time the series raced here in 2009, said the key to going fast at Atlanta was momentum.
“It’s a very fast track, and if you have to slow down for these corners due to entry oversteer or pushing through, you’re going to be slower,” he said. “The idea is not to get too much brake where you don’t need it and run through the corners, don’t slow the car down. You’re going so quick, and this track has such long straightaways…if you lose through the corners it’s going to kill you on the straightaways.”
O’Connell stands third in the driver’s points behind Patrick Long, who clinched the GT title at Laguna Seca earlier in the month. He is 18 points in arrears of Skeen, however, and that’s his focus for Friday’s 60-minute finale. Pilgrim is fifth by a good bit and will lock it down once the race begins.
In the manufacturer’s chase, Porsche clinched the title at Laguna, and Cadillac locked into second at the same race. Porsche has 76 points to 48 for Cadillac.
Friday’s Cadillac Road Atlanta Grand Prix is set to begin at 1:25 p.m. EDT. The race will be broadcast on Versus at 1 p.m. Oct. 29, along with the Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix from Laguna Seca.
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