We happened to be at Mid-Ohio for race one of this past weekend's World Challenge double header in which O'Connell was running second and could've easily won had his car not spun off the track after contact with another GT Class Corvette. We just happened to catch the CTS-V Coupe's off-track excursion, including how O'Connell passed the Corvette that contacted him after returning to pavement (check out the video after the break).
O'Connell finished eighth that race, but had an opportunity for redemption in race two of the double-header on Sunday. Things went Cadillac's way this time when, after working his way up from seventh to third, O'Connell took advantage of last-lap contact between the two race leaders to take the win.
Cadillac Racing hasn't had the same level of success yet that seemed to come so much easier with the previous generation CTS-V sedan. We've discussed at length why, which has more to do with added weight and restrictor plates mandated by the governing body than the racing abilities of Pilgrim and O'Connell or the vehicle's ultimate potential. Now that the team has tasted success again, it probably won't be as long between victories.
CTS-V Coupe records first victory since 2007 after leaders tangle on final lap; Pilgrim comes home 6th at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
- O'Connell logs first World Challenge victory at "home" track
- Pilgrim outlasts Sofronas in lengthy battle for position
- Team Cadillac drivers in top-five in points with big weekend
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Johnny O'Connell thought Saturday's Pirelli World Challenge race was one he could have won. On Sunday, in front of a large contingent from Cadillac, he got revenge for the one that got away.
O'Connell passed stricken leader Alex Figge and second-place Mike Skeen coming off Turn 3 on the final lap to earn victory in Round 8 of the World Challenge Series and give Cadillac its first triumph since the final race of the 2007 season at Laguna Seca Raceway in California.
"You want to win when you have the top GM executives at the race, which we had, the top Cadillac guys, and you want to leave them with a good feeling rather than a bad feeling," a happy O'Connell said after the race. "After all the work that everybody at Cadillac Racing has done, it is nice."
O'Connell's No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe had been running second in Saturday's race when he was bumped off the track, and he finished eighth. On Sunday, he was intent on playing the same plan...without the contact.
"That had to be the closest battle all year," he said. "You had both Volvos up front, both Corvettes were extremely strong. We didn't qualify as well as we would have liked, but we had some issues this morning that we got sorted out.
"Winning the race today was a little bit me being aggressive at the right time and also being fortuitous with some of the accidents that went on out there. It doesn't matter how you get them; it's just getting them."
The thought that Skeen and Figge might have contact did enter O'Connell's mind.
"It was my hope they would get into each other and mix it up that last lap, which is what you do for a win," he said. "I wasn't hoping they'd wreck; just lose their momentum and let me get in amongst it. Seeing them go side-by-side into Turn 2, it worked to my advantage if they stayed that way all the way through Turn 4.
"They touched, and it was bad luck for Mike that he popped into the air and the Volvo bent his car up too. It was a good win for the team."
O'Connell never lifted when the leaders crashed, and beat Patrick Lindsey to the checkered flag by a little more than a second.
"It feels pretty darn good," said Cadillac team manager Steve Cole. "It couldn't have happened on a better weekend, and I'm still a fan of an ugly win is still a win."
Teammate Andy Pilgrim got into the spirit of the event. "I couldn't be happier for Cadillac and for Johnny," Pilgrim said. "You just have to be in the right place. Stuff happens in racing, and Johnny was in the right place. It's awesome."
Pilgrim fought a stiff battle with James Sofronas all day long and wound up sixth at the finish.
As you can imagine, O'Connell's victory made a lot of the Cadillac and GM executives in attendance very happy.
"Today is really a culmination of an incredible amount of preparation, not only at the race shop but by our Cadillac team," said Jim Campbell, General Motors U.S. Vice-President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "What it shows you here today is that you have to be prepared, you have to pounce on every opportunity and when you have the chance, you've got to go. I am so proud of Johnny for being ready to take advantage and grab the win".
Jim Vurpillat, Cadillac Global Marketing Manager, was on hand for the weekend, along with Campbell and Vice-President of Cadillac Marketing Don Butler.
"It's amazing," Vurpillat said in Victory Lane. "This team was put together seven months ago, and all the work that came from Pratt & Miller Engineering and GM Racing and our awesome drivers...we've worked the first half of the year just to get the car where we wanted it to be. To put Cadillac back in the winner's circle, it's heaven."
V-Series Racing Marketing Manager John Kraemer, who manages the racing program, was ecstatic.
"This is just incredible," he enthused. "We had great support this weekend from all the folks from Cadillac who came down here from Detroit, all the regional folks and local folks, dealers...what a weekend. We were inches away from having two victories. It's awesome."
Behind O'Connell and Lindsey came Randy Pobst, point leader Patrick Long and Figge. Pilgrim was next, followed by Sofronas, Rob Morgan and Tony Gaples.
O'Connell's victory jumped him up a spot into fourth in the GT Series points, two behind Skeen, and Pilgrim's solid weekend put him fifth in the point standings. Long still leads the points over Sofronas and Skeen.
In the manufacturer's chase, Porsche leads with 56 points and Cadillac is second with 30.
The next two rounds for the Pirelli World Challenge is Aug. 26-28 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif..
Cadillac has been a leading luxury auto brand since 1902. In recent years, Cadillac has engineered a historic renaissance led by artful engineering and advanced technology. More information on Cadillac can be found at media.cadillac.com.