This coming weekend, that relationship is going to get some high-profile exposure as the #16 CTS-V SPEED GT racing car will sport a new PGR-themed livery for the Speed World Challenge race at Infineon Raceway. Cadillac is pulling out all the stops to make sure the car does well, as Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell will strap in behind the wheel. O'Connell, who along with teammate Ron Fellows has won his last five ALMS races at Infineon, will see if he can work his magic with the Cadillac and finish atop the podium. Reigining SPEED GT champ and Cadillac teammate Andy Pilgrim will join O'Connell on the circuit in the #1 car.
The SPEED GT race is part of this weekend's NASCAR Nextel Cup festivities at Infineon, so a huge crowd and equally huge exposure for the Caddy/XBOX relationship are all but guaranteed.
(Photo, press release after the jump)
FOR RELEASE: 2006-06-20
Team Cadillac to Have New Look and a New Audience for SPEED GT Race at Infineon Raceway
O'Connell to Carry Project Gotham Racing 3 Colors on Cadillac CTS-V for Infineon Raceway NASCAR Weekend
SONOMA, Calif. - Team Cadillac will have a new look, a new audience, and a new course configuration when the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT series stages its first race in conjunction with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series road race at Infineon Raceway on June 23-25. Guest driver Johnny O'Connell will drive the No. 16 Cadillac CTS-V with special graphics celebrating the release of the free downloadable Cadillac V-Series content pack for Microsoft's most popular racing game for Xbox 360; Project Gotham Racing 3.
"We've got three reasons to be excited about the SPEED GT race at Infineon Raceway," said Team Cadillac program manager Dave Spitzer. "Sharing the track with NASCAR will put our Cadillac CTS-V race cars in front of thousands of fans who may have not seen World Challenge cars before. We'll be promoting the newly available free content pack that adds all three Cadillac V-Series high-performance cars to the Xbox 360 Project Gotham Racing 3 game. And with Johnny O'Connell in the No. 16 Cadillac CTS-V, we'll have a driver who has won five straight races at Infineon Raceway."
"We're thrilled to have partnered with Microsoft to provide the first, free downloadable content for an Xbox 360 game," said Cadillac marketing director Liz Vanzura. "We love the fact that Microsoft so accurately captured the excitement of our Cadillac V-Series vehicles in the virtual world of Project Gotham Racing 3. Our Cadillac CTS-V, STS-V and XLR-V cars virtually race against many of the world's great exotic sports cars in the videogame. Now, for this big race weekend, Cadillac and Microsoft are bringing the energy of Project Gotham Racing 3 gaming into the very real world of SPEED World Challenge GT."
"The partnership between Cadillac and Xbox is a win, win and we are excited to see video game content continue to integrate into real world racing," said Xbox marketing director Craig Davison. "The Cadillac V-Series downloadable content has enjoyed a terrific reception within our Xbox LIVE community and we couldn't be happier about the additional brand exposure for Project Gotham Racing 3 in the real-life world of racing."
O'Connell will make his third appearance of the season with Team Cadillac, paired with Andy Pilgrim who will drive the No. 1 Cadillac CTS-V that signifies the reigning SPEED GT champion. O'Connell has decades of experience at the Sonoma track as both a racer and driving school instructor. He and his Corvette Racing teammate Ron Fellows won five straight American Le Mans Series races at Infineon Raceway, scoring their most recent victory in July 2005.
"I feel like I'm going home when I race at Infineon Raceway," said O'Connell. "I first drove there in the mid-1980s, and I worked as an instructor for the Bondurant driving school from 1989 to 1991. I'll be staying at the same B&B where I lived when I was an instructor, but I was sleeping in the garage back then. I've always had good luck at that track from the time when I raced in Formula Atlantic to winning five times with Corvette Racing."
The World Challenge race will have a new twist when the cars take on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile NASCAR course instead of the 2.53-mile circuit that's traditionally used for road racing events at the Bay Area track. The shortened course eliminates the Carousel turn and the hairpin at Turn 7.
"Flying into the Carousel is certainly one of those corners that separates the men from the boys, and the run up to Turn 7 was a very good overtaking area," O'Connell noted. "When I've watched the Cup cars race at Infineon Raceway, there's often contact when they try overtaking maneuvers into Turn 7. We'll just have to see what challenges the track layout presents."
The new track layout will also impact Team Cadillac's engineering team.
"On the long course we've run previously at Infineon Raceway, the chassis had to be set up with the Carousel in mind because it is a very important left-hand corner," Spitzer noted. "Without the Carousel, the NASCAR track configuration makes the course predominantly a right-handed track, like an oval running in reverse."
Pilgrim also relishes his return to the hills of Sonoma. "I love the track," he declared. "The lap times will be much faster because we're losing a half a mile of track. The NASCAR layout does take away a passing point going into the hairpin in turn 7, but to be honest, I'll have to wait until I drive the course to see whether it will still be possible to pass there.
"I think it's going to be a terrific event running with NASCAR," Pilgrim noted. "My friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be there, of course, and I'm looking forward to seeing him."
O'Connell will also have an avid interest in the NASCAR Nextel Cup race in which his Corvette Racing and Team Cadillac teammate Ron Fellows will be competing.
"I'm going to be Ron's spotter for the NASCAR race," O'Connell revealed. "I'll be participating in two races on Sunday, and I'll get to add 'NASCAR spotter' to my resume."
The SPEED World Challenge GT race at Infineon Raceway will start at 4:30 p.m. local time (7:30 p.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 25. The 50-minute race will be televised tape-delayed on the SPEED Channel on Saturday, July 8, at 4 p.m. EDT.
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