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Laguna Seca: Team Cadillac preview

Team Cadillac Races for Drivers and Manufacturers Championships in SPEED World Challenge GT Season Finale Pilgrim in the Drivers Seat for Title; Cadillac Aims to Overtake Porsche MONTEREY, Calif. - So it all comes down to this. After 10 races...

Team Cadillac Races for Drivers and Manufacturers Championships in SPEED World Challenge GT Season Finale

Pilgrim in the Drivers Seat for Title; Cadillac Aims to Overtake Porsche

MONTEREY, Calif. - So it all comes down to this. After 10 races at tracks from Florida to Oregon, the season finale of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 16 will decide the series' drivers and manufacturers championships. Team Cadillac is in strong contention for both titles: Andy Pilgrim, driver of the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V, leads the drivers' standings by eight points, while Cadillac must overcome Porsche's three-point lead to capture its first manufacturers championship.

"There are a dozen scenarios on how the championships could be decided, but the bottom line is that Team Cadillac is going to Laguna Seca to win the race," said GM Racing program manager Dave Spitzer. "If we do that, the rest will sort itself out."

Team Cadillac's second season in the SPEED GT championship has already produced solid results, with three wins, two poles, a 1-2-3 podium sweep and 16 top-five finishes. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's 50-minute sprint race, Cadillac has made a statement about the performance credentials of the CTS-V sedan.

Team Cadillac will field a trio of CTS-Vs on the roller coaster 2.24-mile Laguna Seca circuit as Italian road racing ace Max Angelelli joins Pilgrim and Max Papis on the Cadillac roster.

"Since the start of the 2005 season, we've focused on winning the manufacturers championship for Cadillac, but no one should overlook the tremendous achievements of Andy Pilgrim and the crew of the No. 8 CTS-V," said Spitzer. "Andy will be carrying 210 pounds of REWARDS ballast in the final race, more than any other driver, so he'll be fighting with one hand tied behind his back. We'll do everything we can to optimize the performance of the car, and I'm confident that Andy will drive his heart out, just like he does in every race."

Pilgrim's Progress

"It's a strange position to be in," said Pilgrim. "I haven't won a race this year, yet I'm leading the championship. My Cadillac CTS-V has been very fast and absolutely reliable this season, while my rivals have encountered some bad luck."

Pilgrim knows how to win. He's posted more than 50 victories in 10 different series of competition since he began his professional racing career in 1984. He's scored three podium finishes in 2005, and has finished in the top 10 in every SPEED GT race.

"The key is to put yourself in position to take advantage of every opportunity," he said. "A successful race car driver must assess a situation and make the right decision quickly. I've competed in hundreds of races and spent thousands of hours on race tracks, so I think I'm able to make good decisions most of the time."

The Max Factor

While Pilgrim will be burdened with more that 200 pounds of success ballast, the "two Maxes" - Angelelli and Papis - will be carrying lighter loads. Angelelli will have 120 pounds in his fifth start of the season, while Papis will have zero weight added to his CTS-V's 3200-pound base weight.

"As always, Laguna Seca is going to be a unique race," Papis predicted. "The track itself is very special, and it has a lot of history. We're going there with a primary goal of winning the manufacturers championship for Cadillac, but if I can help Andy in any way, I will definitely do it.

"I feel confident because everyone in the Cadillac organization has been working hard to come up with the best of the best, from the engine to the chassis. It's going to be a challenge because we must finish with a gap between us and the Porsches to win the championship. I know we're going to give 100 percent."

Papis knows his way around the Laguna Seca circuit. He won a CART race there in 2001 after starting 25th on the grid and he has tested frequently at the facility. He drove a Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototype in the track's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series event in May.

"I ran hundreds of laps testing at Laguna Seca when I drove for a California-based CART team," he reported. "It's certainly going to be different driving a GT car there instead of an open-wheel car, and I'm going to have to adjust my braking points quite a lot. The race in Monterey is special because there are lots of very knowledgeable race fans."

The Final Showdown

To win the SPEED GT manufacturers title, Cadillac must score three more points than Porsche. That will happen if a Cadillac finishes in fourth place or better and is two positions ahead of the top-finishing Porsche. A tie will be decided in favor of Cadillac, which has more second-place finishes than its German rival.

"We have been thinking about Laguna Seca since the start of the season," Spitzer revealed. "At every test and race this year, we've always had one eye on this event. We learned last year that Laguna Seca does not favor our package, and that we would need maximum preparation. We'll use the promoter test day to work through a very detailed program with all three cars. We're going into the season finale with the determination to win the race."

After its breakout season in 2004, Cadillac's unconventional racing program has continued to create enthusiasm among customers and dealers. Sophomore seasons are notoriously difficult, but Team Cadillac has the equipment, the expertise, and the attitude to take on the world in the SPEED World Challenge GT.

The 50-minute SPEED GT race at the Monterey Sports Car Championships is scheduled to start at 1:50 p.m. PDT on Sunday, Oct. 16. The race will be televised live on the SPEED Channel at 5 p.m. EDT.

-tc/gm racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Max Papis , Andy Pilgrim , Max Angelelli