Cadillac Racing driver Johnny O'Connell added a third consecutive Pirelli World Challenge Series GT Drivers Championship to his racing resume. Teammate Andy Pilgrim sealed the Manufacturer Championship for Cadillac by finishing third in GT in today's Pirelli World Challenge Nissan Finale at Miller Motorsports Park.
Both Cadillac drivers were able to get clean lanes down to Turn One for the final race of the season. Exiting Turn One O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga) moved to second from his sixth place starting position with teammate Pilgrim (Boca Raton Fla.) slotting in two spaces behind in fourth. The Cadillac drivers sole focus was to keep the armada of six Audis behind them to take the manufacturer title. Mission accomplished. Pilgrim finished the race in third position behind a McLaren and a Porsche while O'Connell came home a safe seventh to celebrate his third GT drivers' championship.
"What a year," O'Connell said. "It is everyone at Team Cadillac. I am just the quarterback. We have a whole team that makes this CTS.V.R go. If you don't have the whole package from the car to the crew to these great Pirelli tires you are just not going to win here. Andy is a great teammate and he was on fire today, he drove a great race. I couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished as a team this year. This one is probably the most special of the three. We had to overcome a lot of obstacles this year and we did as a team. We did not make a mistake all season long."O'Connell maintained a laser focus throughout the 2014 season to win his third World Challenge GT Drivers Championship. Posting three wins, one at Long Beach and two in Detroit, he added six second place finishes and two thirds to go along with four pole positions on the year. It was the last five races that were the most challenging. Following the Road America round the team was saddled with a weight penalty that took O'Connell from average finishes of third to fifth place averages the last half of the season. Luck, strategy, teamwork and execution all played key roles in O'Connell's third championship. A rain shortened event at Mid-Ohio where the team kept him on the track resulting in a second place finish was key and the stars were aligned in the first race of the final weekend when championship rival Mike Skeen, No. 2 Audi, had an axle issue at the start and scored zero points, with O'Connell driving to a second place finish. The three time champion relied on his race craft honed over 27 years behind the wheel to take advantage of every opportunity to keep the championship under the Cadillac Racing tent.
"We had to keep Audi behind us," Pilgrim said. "Johnny got a good jump at the start. Skeen (Mike, Audi No. 2) got by me on the first lap fair and square. I kept the pressure on him and we hit some traffic and I was able to get by Mike. Then I was behind Johnny and I sensed his car was going off a little sooner than mine. I put that move on him going into Turn Five and was able to get by. My car was better and I had to go. I ran as hard as I could the rest of the race and I was able to keep it going. Congratulations to Johnny on his third championship and Cadillac on their third title as well."Pilgrim's drive helped Cadillac Racing secure their fifth manufacturer championship (2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014).
Jim Campbell, General Motors vice president performance vehicles and motorsports, extended his praise for Cadillac Racing.
"Incredible finish," Campbell said. "Great driving by Johnny and preparation by the crew all season long. Proud of Johnny and the CTS-V.R team on winning the GT driver championship for a third year in a row. Andy's drive today, finishing third, brought the Manufacturers Championship back to Detroit for the third year as well. Teamwork, preparation, determination and great driving were keys to the championship."
"Really good racing this weekend," David Caldwell, Team Cadillac technical program manager, said. "Johnny did what he needed to do yesterday and Andy really stepped up for us today to secure the Manufacturer Championship for Cadillac. They work great together as teammates and they executed every lap this weekend without error. I need to thank every member of Team Cadillac for digging deep and putting in extreme efforts all year long to deliver both the Manufacturer and Driver's championship titles for Cadillac."
Since the team's inception in 2004, Team Cadillac has amassed 26 wins, 91 podium finishes (including wins) and 22 pole positions. The team won the World Challenge Manufacturer Championship in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Team Cadillac drivers have won the World Challenge Driver's Championship in 2005 with Andy Pilgrim and in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with Johnny O'Connell.