O’Connell Fourth in Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix at Laguna; Pilgrim Punted on First Lap
CTS-V Coupe performs well at Laguna, but weather works against O’Connell. Pilgrim crashed out by rival on first lap
– O’Connell alive for 2nd-place points finish
– Championship out of reach, but manufacturer’s gap tightens
– Racing for position in season finale at Road Atlanta
MONTEREY, Calif. – It was an up-and-down day for Team Cadillac at Laguna Seca Raceway on Sunday, as Johnny O’Connell rallied for a fourth-place finish in the final lap.
That was the up part. The down part was that teammate Andy Pilgrim didn’t get to complete a full lap after contact from behind sent him off the course and into the garage.
O’Connell, who started third on the grid, got past Mike Skeen on the standing start and held him off for the first 14 laps until Skeen made a bump-and-run pass out of Turn 5. That was after Skeen had hit the rear of O’Connell’s Cadillac CTS-V on several occasions.
“They obviously had a very quick car, and I don’t know why it is, but it seems that the Corvettes race us dirtier than anybody,” O’Connell said after the race, Round 11 of the Pirelli World Challenge. “I’ve been turned around twice in races by the white car (Patrick Lindsey) and now I’ve been really mugged by the yellow car (Skeen). He at least didn’t turn me backwards, but he turned me sideways.”
It was the white car that did in Pilgrim’s chances for a good day…in the third turn of the first lap. The resulting contact tore up the suspension on the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V and ended his race right there in the runoff area.
“It’s a shame we were not racing clean today,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell did get one good break on the final lap, when James Sofronas’s Porsche ran out of brakes and dropped from fourth to 10th at the finish.
That means that O’Connell will go to Road Atlanta for the final round with a good shot at second place in the points. Patrick Long clinched the GT title with a fifth-place finish on Sunday.
“The great thing about this team is, every race you’re learning,” O’Connell said. “Our cars were good, just not as good as we needed them to be. It’s a learning year.”
Skeen has 1,075 points after his victory, while O’Connell has 1,048. Sofronas has 1,033 headed into the final race of the 2011 season. Pilgrim, despite his DNF, remained fifth in the points with one race to go.
Skeen earned the victory, followed by polesitter Randy Pobst and Lindsey. O’Connell topped Long for fourth.
In the manufacturer’s chase, Cadillac finished ahead of Porsche, cutting the lead to 76-48 with one race remaining in the season. Volvo is well behind in third with 31 points.
The next round for the Pirelli World Challenge is Sunday, Sept. 18 at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif.
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Cadillac Racing Communications