Boca Raton, Fla. - “We’re Putting the Band Back Together.”
Those immortal words were spoken by Dan Aykroyd and the late, great John Belushi in the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers." I don’t use the phrase lightly, as I have great respect and reverence for that particular cinematic classic, but in this case I feel comfortable using them and they definitely apply.
Cadillac and GM Racing have commissioned Pratt & Miller Engineering to build all-new World Challenge Cadillac CTS-V Coupe race cars for the 2011 season.
There is more news my friends. The “Red Rocket” himself, Mr. Johnny O’Connell, will be joining Team Cadillac. This means Johnny continues his decade-long career with GM Racing by moving over to the new Cadillac team. Johnny brings his massively successful, multi-championship and race-winning ALMS career from Corvette Racing.
There is no doubt Johnny will add hugely to the talent level in World Challenge this year and I’m sure everyone will be working hard this winter to bring their “A” game starting at St. Pete for Rounds One and Two in March.
Another piece of news that I haven’t quite got over yet is that I will be Johnny’s teammate driving a second Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. I am SO excited about 2011, it’s great to be back with GM Racing and Cadillac.
The new race cars are in the process of being built and we hope to start testing later this month. The Pratt & Miller team is working ferociously to get the cars on the ground as soon as possible.
So, what about my Volvo team from the last two years? About three weeks ago I had a very difficult decision to make. I had offers from two fantastic race teams, K-Pax Racing and GM Racing. I made the choice to return to GM Racing with Team Cadillac.
For the last two seasons I have had a fantastic time with the K-Pax team and great teammate Randy Pobst. I consider them all as friends. I had several race wins, numerous podium finishes and helped win a Manufacturer’s Championship for Volvo in 2010.
I have great respect for the K-Pax team. I want to thank Jim Haughey, Bob Raub and the whole K-Pax/3R team for giving me the opportunity to work with them. I’m really looking forward to competing with them on the track and hanging out with them in the paddock in 2011.
So, now what?
There is a big difference between the Cadillac and the Volvo race cars, that’s for sure.
I’ll need to get myself ready for two-wheel-drive instead of all-wheel drive and a huge Cadillac V8 instead of a 2.5 liter turbo in the Volvo.
I will again find instant power on gas pedal application with the Cadillac instead of the Volvo’s small turbo, where it was “apply gas before the apex, be ready and then, bang, you swallow your fillings” (I’ll miss that part the most!).
I have to say a sincere thanks to all the race fans who have been sending me congratulations and good luck wishes, as of last count I have responded to over 250 e-mails, race fans are the best.
Oh yes, something else I should mention.
The switched-on people at Cadillac marketing have dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century. They have insisted on me having a Facebook page, so there I am, as of a few days ago. I am a bit Facebook challenged at the moment but will be studying hard over the coming weeks.
I think I heard someone else at Cadillac say Twitter the other day, but I’m hoping they were talking about small birds, we’ll see.
I have been asked by several fans as to how GM can justify racing when they just got out of bankruptcy.
The World Challenge racing series was the venue in 2004 that helped change the perception of the Cadillac brand. The change was from luxury car to luxury car combined with performance by use of the new “V” models as race cars.
It worked. I know it worked because I was there and saw the changes. Last year I was invited to a track day at Summit Point Raceway, held by Lindsay Cadillac in Alexandria, VA., where 50 V Series cars were ripping up the tarmac.
There are thousands of Cadillac buyers who now own a Cadillac and brag about it, just as the BMW M3 owner or Mercedes AMG owner does. I call them “performance-proud” owners.
From what we’ve seen, the marketing people at Cadillac did a brilliant job of leveraging a professional motor racing series and managed to change a legendary car brand’s identity. That sounds good right? Well, I heard it from another manufacturer’s PR guy who was singing the praises of the original Cadillac race program to me in 2007.
As a car company GM has to market themselves all over TV, magazines and the internet, otherwise they don’t sell as many cars.
Marketing costs money. Racing is marketing, no different than an ad on TV.
Not because it doesn’t work or cannot be cost effective, but because of peoples possible perceptions.
I’m proud to be part of the Cadillac race program again and look forward to helping solidify that performance label out there on the track once again.
Another project that I am finishing up is “The Driving Zone 2” DVD. This DVD will be used to help new street drivers. It contains 22 chapters in two parts. It also has three extra sections on Street Racing, A Message to Parents and Adaptive Street Driving (Working with Shriners Hospital for Children, Chicago).
The DVD enhances and adds to information students receive from driving education classes.
We are in the final production and editing stages where, audio sweetening, blurring of license plates, sound effects, music transitions and other small changes seem to be taking longer than the whole production. This process is not a lot of fun, but I want the DVD to be as correct as we can make it.
With any luck, Driving Zone 2 will be used in hundreds of classrooms and I cannot stand the thought of a teacher sending me an e-mail informing me of some simple spelling mistake that I missed, so we are going to proof it and re-proof it until we can’t see straight. I am hoping to have finished copies back from the production house by the end of January or early February.
I look forward to seeing all you race fans at a World Challenge race in 2011.
Yes, we’re putting the band back together!