Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car takes on all comers – Click above for high-res image gallery

The last time Cadillac lined up for the World Challenge Series from 2004 to 2007, it was competing with the CTS-V sedan. As put by an understated Jim Vurpillat, Cadillac's global head of marketing, "We've been here before and had some success."

The CTS-V Coupe race cars were plucked from the same line as cars headed to dealerships.
By "some success," he means that the four-door roared off with the championship in its second and fourth years. The team has a steep road to climb if they're going to relive that kind of winning percentage with its new CTS-V Coupe, but, having watched the package shred the Long Beach circuit last weekend, there's no doubt they have a car that will be able to do it... eventually.

With just six months to prepare for the racing season, the two CTS-V Coupes piloted by Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim were built at the Lansing, Michigan plant, plucked from the same line as cars headed to dealerships. They were then taken to Pratt & Miller, the same firm that prepped the championship-winning CTS-V sedans, to be overhauled.

Continue Reading Why Cadillac hasn't found success yet in World Challenge Series, and why it's not giving up...




All the body panels were replaced with carbon fiber bits, and the racer maintains a pretty stock look, save for the bulked-up fender flares and kickout panel that houses the side-exit exhaust. That has helped get the car under its mandated 3,100-pound race weight. The team uses tungsten bars for ballast and balance tweaking.

Under the vented bonnet, the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from the showroom car is stripped of its supercharger, and the now-naturally aspirated lump is repositioned as low and far back in the engine bay as possible. It puts power down through a six-speed sequential transmission that the driver shifts, not with paddles, but with a stubby stick jutting up from the center console. Brembos all around handle stopping duties.

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car hood detail
Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car brakesCadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car rear wing detailCadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car safety cage

For driver safety, there's a net on both sides of the head and a carbon-and-honeycomb box structure between the rollbar and door skin. To keep the driver cool, there's an air intake in the rear-quarter glass that runs to a coolbox filled with water and ice. The chilled air is then channeled to three locations: the perforations in the driver's seat, to a system that cools the driver's suit, and to the helmet. There is also a thermos of chilled water for drinking, activated by a button on the steering wheel.

That is one of many buttons on the Formula 1-esque steering wheel. Another notable switch is the Line Lock; World Challenge Series utilizes standing starts (a side effect of which is the comical sight of an official literally zig-zagging through the starting grid to line up the cars), so when the driver presses the Line Lock, it holds the engine at a set speed and locks the car's brakes. The driver can then let go of the clutch and just focus on hitting the go pedal when the race begins.

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car steering wheelCadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car air intake

Out back, the overhead spars that support the infinitely-adjustable rear wing are what you get "when you give an engineer too much time." The rules allow the wing to line up with the rear line of the car, but if the spars were fixed from the bottom they would impede access to the trunk. That would be a problem because the trunk houses the fuel filler nozzles (though a WCS race is only 50 minutes in duration, so there's no need to refuel mid-race), ancillaries, and an intake to channel cooling air to the differential and transmission.

A 1.7-inch air restrictor and no supercharger cuts horsepower from 556 in the street car to 460 in the race car.
It's a sleek piece of kit – an evil, motorized Mondrian. But it is not, so far, a winner. That is, at least in part, because the SCCA wants to make sure the CTS-V Coupe does not repeat the dominant feats of its four-door predecessor. At least, not this year.

Said driver Johnny O'Connell, who switched to World Challenge after ten years in GM's American Le Mans Series Corvette program, "Cadillac came in and was very dominant – they made a start that the governing body probably found embarrassing, so we're on lifetime double-secret probation."

What he's talking about is the WCS' Equivalency Formula in the GT class, which tries to put the various makes in the series on level-ish ground. This is done by setting a weight for a particular entrant – the Cadillac has to come in at 3,100 pounds – then applying an air restrictor to choke the ponies.

Cadillac CTS-V SCCA race car

The race version of the CTS-V Coupe breathes through a restrictor that is just 1.7 inches in diameter. That volume of air, along with the loss of the supercharger, cuts horsepower from 556 in the street car to 460 in the race car.

The result, according to O'Connell, is that "the Corvettes are doing 160 miles per hour down the straight, the Porsches are doing 154, we're doing 149. You'd kill for two more miles an hour. We're down by more than ten. The sanctioning body is holding us back." When asked who he thinks the formula favors, he said, only half jokingly, "Oh, the Porsche, Vette, Viper, Volvo, and Mustang." In other words, every other car in the class.

Volumes of in-car telemetry are stored in the car and downloaded by the governing body, which can then judge – based on top speeds, cornering speeds and the like – who needs to be reined in and who can be allowed a little more power. After not coming any higher than fourth so far this year, the hope is that the powers-that-be will let the CTS-V Coupe breathe a little easier pretty soon.

Cadillac CTS-V SCCA race car

O'Connell's sentiments – those of a committed racer – are tempered by Vurpillat, who said of the sanctioning body, "They have a hard job. You've got mid-engined Porsches, you've got Vipers and Volvos – we just hope these guys will look at the data and make the right decision."

The Cadillac sounds like the alarm that God will use as an early warning system for the Apocalpyse.
As to why and how long Cadillac might endure such a handicap, Vurpillat said they've committed two years to the series. For the time being, it is more important to him to get the racing CTS-V Coupe in front of people who might not otherwise have Cadillac on their minds, and doing so in a series that allows people to equate the race car with the one they can buy... you know, what that other so-called stock-car racing series used to be. And so far everyone is happy with the program.

"The biggest misunderstanding is that we build cars that are large, comfortable and soft," said Vurpillat. "Nothing could be further from the truth.

"When we made the decision to go racing, we said the series needed to be production-based, we needed to have some experience in it, and it needed a short development time. It's a long race season, but we've still had no mechanical failures, no suspensions break or engines break, and every lap we can run we can get better. From that end we're very excited."

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA race car

As for the racing itself, we found it plenty exciting – close action with heaps of passing, and the sounds are unforgettable. Whereas the Corvettes wail like murder on PCP, the Cadillac sounds like the alarm that God will use as an early warning system for the Apocalypse.

As for the drivers' excitement – as in, spraying bubbly on the top step of the podium – O'Connell promises that's coming. He came in seventh at the Long Beach race, with teammate Andy Pilgrim taking eighth, but as America's winningest Le Mans Series driver, we'll give O'Connell the benefit of some time.

"It's very early in the program, but we'll find a way. By halfway through the season I'll be angry if I don't a have a win."

The next World Challenge event takes place this weekend – April 29 to May 1 – at Miller Motorsports Park, and you can catch all the action on the VS cable network.




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 27 Comments
      frankierr6
      • 3 Years Ago
      This contributes more to street performance than NASCAR. I can finally identify what product it is. We need this kinda racing, instead if the truck disguised as a car.....or Checker Cab looking "Car of Tomorrow".
        Dwight Bynum Jr.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @frankierr6
        Well, you can't really "fault" NASCAR for the look of their cars. If you're going to do that, you should fault the drivers and teams that complained anytime a newer and sleeker car was introduced, that had some sort of aerodynamic advantage. Case in point. The 1995 Monte Carlo came out and dominated the Thunderbird and Grand Prix until the sleeker Grand Prix was introduced in 1997 and the Taurus was used for NASCAR competition in 1998. So then what happened? Dodge introduced the Intrepid to NASCAR in 2001 and now you're got even more aero complaints. So, NASCAR put an end to ALL of that and introduced a "common template" in 2002 to be used starting with the 2003 season. Threw all the aerodynamic advantages, disadvantages, and the complaints that came along with them right out the window. Does it change the look of the cars? Absolutely. Does it remove the manufacturer's drag coefficient from the equation and make the cars essentially equal in the air? You bet. With a series like World Challenge, you're not turning laps at 200 MPH with the air being a constant and VERY important variable, that's why the cars can look the way they do. You throw these cars on a track like the Daytona tri-oval and you're going to see a TON of complaints from the cars that have aerodynamic disadvantages, and you'd probably just end up with a "common template" setup much like we see in NASCAR.
          Vettro
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Dwight Bynum Jr.
          There are two things I don't like about NASCAR...1. The fact that they actually call the cars a Mustang, a Fusion, or whatever. I mean come on they use the same engines, bodies, and everything else. It is ridiculous that they try to act as if there is any relation to the original cars.....2. They go around in circles. (It is a fundamental problem with the series that will forever remain so I can't really compain about it much.) I am happy that there are more cars getting involved in the lower classes in Le Mans because Porsche is sitting back claining they have one Le Mans a billion times but really they have been running alone in several classes.
          david opanga
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Dwight Bynum Jr.
          DBJr has a point. the only reason you wont see a copy of the real cars on the street up on the track is because of aerodynamics. going into a corner at 190+MPH has an effect on how the car will hold into that turn the varying rate i would imagine between a challenger and mustang or a impala and fusion would be unequal.
        Carlos Vargas
        • 3 Years Ago
        @frankierr6
        Here is my issue, other than the chassis, these CTSVs really aren't CTSVs anymore. The drivetrain, brakes, and all of the suspension isn't the same as the stock CTSV. Even the chassis is highly modified to the point where it can't even be considered stock anymore. How are these CTSVs other than looks?
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      Pobst's Volvo is far faster on a straight than these are. There's clearly a huge power deficit. We'll just have to see what happens later with equalization. It doesn't make any sense that a Corvette and a CTS-V run the same motor and the Corvette gets a much larger restrictor (43mm for CTS-V going by the 1.7" figure here versus 66.7-77.9mm for a Corvette). Long Beach was tough on a lot of cars (including Pobst), the walls are so close and there are a lot of cars mixing it up.
      Gregory Richards
      • 3 Years Ago
      This car only looks a little like the street car. The body panels were all replaced, engine moved down and back (try that on a street car). I would love to see a series again like the Firehawk, real street cars racing it out. not just look a likes with big wings on them.
      Mark
      • 3 Years Ago
      If only it being an ugly @ss car had anything to do with it...
      Evan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Racing like this is ridiculous for a company emerging from bankruptcy - and even more embarrassing, a government bailout, public 'loans' that will never be repaid, etc.... The marketing benefit is dubious, and the fact that several years after competing in a race series Cadillac is still regarded as second-tier manufacturer in Europe (home of the best sports sedans) demonstrates just how little they have transferred from race car to street car. I keep on thinking GM has learned its lesson, and then see epic wastes of money and displays of ego like this. Ugh.
        Vettro
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Evan
        They are trying to change the image of Cadillac because they need to in order to survive. I don't see anything wrong with their investment. ...as for the European appeal... I think it is more that they don't want to consider it.... not that it isn't worthy because from a performance aspect the CTS-V is as good or better than all of them.
          Albert Ferrer
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Vettro
          We don't know Cadillac indeed. We think of it as big thirsty cars with soft. boat-like ride. Whether that's true or not doesn't matter, stereotypes are a powerful thing. Europeans are also hard to convince to buy something that's not European, partly because of the image and partly because of the special requirements of the European market (especially concerning expensive/premium cars).
        Blakkar
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Evan
        It's called "building a reputation" and GM is doing a bombastic job of rebuilding theirs. You can keep trying to hang on that "bailout" diatribe all you like, but you just look that much more foolish as time goes on and GM vindicates itself. Winning races and making sales using racing in part to make ever better product.
        Albert Ferrer
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Evan
        More than second tier, Cadillac isn't even on the radar for us.
        Erik R. Reid
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Evan
        Evan, I agree with your comment regarding GM/Cadillac's return to racing after emerging from a government fueled bailout. It doesn't look good. However, your comment about European sports sedans is interesting. All the major European sports sedan manufacturers race. BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Maserati etc all have racing programs. Cadillac CTS-V is considered "second-tier" (I didn't say it) in Europe because all most American cars are panned in Europe.
      Shiftright
      • 3 Years Ago
      Easily on the hottest race cars ever...
      789dm
      • 3 Years Ago
      Too bulky and heavy with less power? i know they clear all the interior but maybe still too heavy? or the design too sharp and boxy? not aerodynamic enough?
      Mike McDonald
      • 3 Years Ago
      The only reason GM is racing Cadillacs is because Pontiac is dead, and they're desperate for a racing contendor.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Mike McDonald
        [blocked]
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      kevsflanagan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well considering only 6 months worth of development and how close WCS likes to keep the car's on a level playing field to me they are doing great. I remember with the CTS-V sedan they mopped the floor in their first race. Myself I'm just happy GM be it love or hate 'em they are still in the racing scene and business. Racing breeds technology that trickles down to our street cars.
      QChronoD
      • 3 Years Ago
      In case anyone is interested I finally found it listed on Versus's schedule. Sat 4/30 @ 1:30pm Mon 4/2 @ 2:30pm (I'm assuming the times are EST)
        QChronoD
        • 3 Years Ago
        @QChronoD
        Odd, when I went to set up my TiVo it doesn't say anything about Miller Park "Pirelli World Challenge at Long Beach" From Streets of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif. (and the Monday is just a repeat of Sat's broadcast) So actually it'd doesn't look like you can catch ANY of this weekend's excitement on VS, instead you can catch the race from 2 weeks ago. In the future Autoblog, you might want to do a little research on if/when we can watch it, and not just make broad assumptions.
        MMP Media
        • 3 Years Ago
        @QChronoD
        The race will air on June 13 at 3pm ET. In the meantime, you could come join us at Miller Motorsports Park this weekend. We'd be glad to have you!
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
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