By John Schommer, Forza Motorsport
Is it a foregone conclusion that professional race car drivers love to taunt death? Not necessarily. It's really about pushing limits and finding the edge without careening over. Few have the judgment and skills to not only survive a life of racing. Few have the judgment and skills to not only survive a life of racing, but to excel at it.
Andy Pilgrim is one. An accomplished racer in many disciplines. Pilgrim started racing in motorcycles on the 1980s and then came to the U.S. to find career opportunities that weren't available in his native U.K. He has always been passionate about bikes; for example, he has kept a race program from a local track - Mallory Park - near Nottingham U.K. since he was two years old. Growing up, Pilgrim was the kid that was doing stunts on his tricycle, bicycle or moped. He was also the only who didn't need to follow the crowd when they chose to do something stupid, and he's always sworn off alcohol or drugs. In his words, "Because I was a risk taker, when it came to anything with faster than feet mobility.
I also realized early that altered states were not a good idea."
As soon as Pilgrim got out of school and got into computer programming - circa 1980 - he bought a motorcycle because he couldn't afford a car. He soon converted the 1972 Kawasaki HB1 into a race bike. Pilgrim says it better than anyone else could, "It went as fast as hell, had bicycle brakes, chocolate tires and handled like a snake on greased ice and I loved it. That bike taught me more about life and near death experiences than anything before or since. If you have not had death wobbles at least twice a lap in all your racing then you just don't know what life is all about." He won two championships on that bike and soon picked up sponsors and better bikes
In 1982, Pilgrim moved to the U.S. and, after putting in some time on the tough streets of Pontiac, Michigan and working for GM as a programmer, he moved to Texas, where he got back into racing. He autocrossed his 1983 VM GTI successfully but, in his heart, he wanted to race professionally. Saving like mad from day one, Pilgrim eventually spent his first annual bonus combined with a loan from a local bank for "furniture" and bought his first race car - a Renault Alliance - from a friend. From there Pilgrim got into an entry level pro series called the Renault Cup Series. In this series drivers raced the Renault Encore on the West Coast and the Renault Alliance in the East. His drove his car to the track every weekend and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1984.
Pilgrim went on to become a factory driver racing for BMW, Porsche and GM, with whom he has raced for 12 years. When GM briefly shut down its racing program, Pilgrim was picked up by championship-winning team K-Pax Racing. Some of his all-time great memories are winning his first championship in 1995, racing at the 23 Hours of Le Mans in 1996, and winning the Daytona 24 Hours overall in 2004. In 2001 he spent five months with Dale Earnhardt Sr. leading up to the Daytona 24 that year. Earnhardt's death occurred just two weeks after their final race together, one of Pilgrim's saddest memories.
Through his career thus far Pilgrim has logged 62 wins in 10 pro series. He has won five professional championships including:
2005 SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT
1998 IMSA Speedvision Cup Grand Sports
1997 IMSA Exxon GT1
1996 Brazilian GT2
1995 IMSA Speedvision Cup Grand Sports
In individual races Pilgrim has finished in the top three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times, won his class at the Daytona 24 Hour three times, twice won at the Petit Le Mans, won once at the 12 Hours of Sebring and racked up enough wins to place second behind Cadillac teammate Johnny O'Connell in the Pirelli World Challenge in 2012.
In 1989 Pilgrim started his own computer consulting company, Electronic Computer Services, Inc. He always knew he had to have something outside of racing to fall back on. Pilgrim has never wanted to work around race tracks unless he was racing, so he built a business and raced for the last 24 years. For the last 12 years, day to day operations have been run by a group of trusted employees, leaving Pilgrim to the task of driving for GM's revitalized racing program.
When he isn't racing or attending to his business, Pilgrim spends time teaching young drivers the importance of safe driving habits and, particularly, avoiding distracted driving. "I have always been someone who wants to give back and I have been talking to high school students about distracted driving since 1994." Since then he has launched the Andy Pilgrim Foundation. In 2005 he produced a video with Dale Earnhardt Jr. called "The Driving Zone." He gave away more than 40,000 DVDs to new drivers. This lead to "The Driving Zone 2" which was released in 2010 and deals with the dangers of using electronic devices while driving. He is currently in final production of "The Parent Driving Zone" which addresses how parents' driving habits are passed on to young drivers. You can read more about Pilgrim at his website.
In the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge season Pilgrim and teammate Johnny O'Connell, driving the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V, collected enough podiums and wins to take home both the driver's championship and second place. Pilgrim could be referred to as a "Cadillac racing pioneer." He has been in the CTS-V every time it has appeared at the track. Pilgrim and the Cadillac CTS-V have produced consistent results.
Now put that knowledge to use in this month's special Forza Motorsport 4 Month Rivals mode "Pilgrimage to Sonoma" where you can try and match Pilgrim's best lap time. Build your best 2011 CTS-V then see if you can best 1:35.660. If you can do it with your best build, then consider Pilgrim did it with 460 hp in a 3,200 lb car, which is what the Pirelli World Challenge restrictor limits the CTS-V power to. We will be giving away unicorns to those that beat Pilgrim's time.
Read my interview with Pilgrim here in the HMA thread. Then put together your best question and post it in the thread. We will be conducting a live Q&A with Pilgrim on December 20 7-9 p.m. EDT. We will be giving away Forza Horizon unicorn cars to those whose questions are used in the Q&A.