Cadillac Racing drivers Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim finished race one of two this weekend at the Pirelli World Challenge Series for the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma in fifth and eighth places this afternoon.
O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga) started the 50-minute GT race from the fifth row based upon his qualifying time this morning of 1:34.341. Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla) took the standing start lights from the seventh row with a qualifying run of 1:34.762 around the 2.3-mile, 12-turn circuit located at the gateway to California's wine country.
When the lights went out, O'Connell moved into eighth with Pilgrim following in tenth. By the time the field circled around they were greeted by a full course caution to start lap two. The SCCA Officials restarted the race on lap six. O'Connell was able to hold his position on the restart, but was soon gifted two positons by the Ferrari of Anthony Lazzaro and the Bentley of Guy Smith spinning in the oil dry that was put down on the track during the caution. As the race continued, O'Connell was able to hold his fifth place while Pilgrim was being forced wide by the Audi of James Sofronas and the Ferrari of Mike Hedlund.
"When you have a race car, a good race car that is 1.3-seconds back any movement forward is good," O'Connell said. "I drove the Cadillac CTS.V.R as hard I could. I had some good battles on the track. The challenging thing is that we are the heaviest car on the track. With each successive lap I am sliding the car. If there were two more laps I probably would have been seventh or eighth. The two spins in the carrousel by Lazzaro and Smith were a gift. They are top line drivers. This is Guy's first race on these tires and maybe he wasn't familiar with the way they heat up. I think Lazzaro got caught out by the speedy dry on the track. Take those two, and the spin by Thorne and we are eighth. We optimized and maximized our Cadillac CTS.V.R today. A team that was winning races at the beginning of the year is now finishing 27 seconds back."
Pilgrim was caught late as he was losing grip.
"I got a great start going from 13th to 10th,"Pilgrim said. "Then we got our, what seems like, mandatory yellow on the first lap. It is a tough deal for us out there now. I lost the tires really bad towards the end and got separated from Johnny. I did the best I could. I didn't think that Sofronas could come by me from as far back as he was on the track. I didn't know the Ferrari of Hedlund was right with him. When the tires are gone you are wounded duck and can't be aggressive and can't really defend."