Top-Five Double for Team Cadillac in Utah
O’Connell 4th, Pilgrim 5th after rough start, solid fight at MMP
– Pilgrim improves 12 spots after start-line stall on first lap
– O’Connell pushes hard, nearly takes podium spot
– Cadillac gains in Manufacturer Points after four rounds of Pirelli SCCA World Challenge Series
TOOELE, Utah – Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Utah was a step forward for Team Cadillac, as both Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim put their Cadillac CTS-V Coupes in the top five at the finish of the 50-minute race.
O’Connell, who started sixth, and Pilgrim, who started eighth in his 100th World Challenge event, had to recover from shaky starts to earn their spots. On the standing start, neither car accelerated as normal, nor did Randy Pobst, starting between the two.
That caused a logjam that ended with a hard collision between Patrick Lindsay’s Corvette and Pobst’s car that blocked the front straight. All cars in the Pirelli World Challenge Series use launch control, which the driver engages on the grid and then the onboard electronics take over.
“Maybe it was the thin air or the grippiness of the track,” Pilgrim speculated later on the stalls. “Johnny almost stalled, I stalled, and I’m lucky I didn’t get hit. Luckily I got the thing going. The car next to me got rear-ended.”
Pilgrim dropped all the way to 17th on the first lap and had a long fight to get back to challenging positions. O’Connell recovered quickly and didn’t lose a spot on the start.
Pilgrim started early, ripping off seven positions in the next three laps to gain the top 10, and O’Connell was keeping the leaders honest from fourth. A pre-race handling change to the rear springs made all the difference, according to Pilgrim.
“We made some changes after the last practice that were for qualifying, and they were good,’ Pilgrim said. “We don’t have the straightaway speed on these guys, but the car was handling so well through the corners that I could get a run on them coming off the corners. The changes were definitely the right direction.”
“We actually ran a race where we could see the leaders most of the day despite being choked to death,” O’Connell said. “I had a great race car, really great balance. The changes we made were right on.”
This was the first race for Team Cadillac with a slightly larger sonic restrictor in place, and an additional 100 pounds of ballast. The changes were positive, but nowhere near what Team Cadillac needed.
“It was a great fight. but the way road racing works, if a guy makes a mistake in front of you, having a better line and all things being equal, it’s just simple math that you should get by him,” O’Connell said. “We’re not dealing with simple math.
“We ran the heck out of that CTS-V today. We used everything we could. It was one of those where they gave me 100 percent of a car and I brought five percent back.”
Pilgrim said the extra weight was better for the balance, but did nothing for horsepower down the straightaways.
“The extra weight was the cause of the changes we made,” he said. “We made a spring change in the rear, and it made the cars handle better. We are making progress on the handling, but we’re still just getting killed on the straightaways. You have to make these really aggressive moves under braking, and it’s not good.”
O’Connell nearly had third place with five laps remaining, running up on Tony Gaples in the final turn before a lapped car foiled the move. Pilgrim, by that time, had advanced to fifth spot and was running hard to catch his teammate.
“If I had been with Johnny, could have worked with him, I could have maybe helped push him down the straightaway and gotten one of us on the podium. We made some good progress, and I’m very happy with the way it went, but I was disappointed in that I couldn’t get to Johnny. We were just getting killed on the straights.”
It was a good points day for Team Cadillac. O’Connell jumped from seventh to fifth in driver points, and Pilgrim leapfrogged two spots to eight after four races. In the manufacturers’ race, Team Cadillac sits second behind Porsche and ahead of Volvo.
Jason Daskalos won the race in the GT class, followed by James Sofronoas, Tony Gaples, O’Connell and Pilgrim.
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