DETROIT - Team Cadillac is heading to the Pirelli World Challenge season finale FOAMETIX Grand Prix of Houston to run Oct. 6 focused on repeating as GT champions. Cadillac drivers Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim have a shot at the GT driver's title.
O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) is the GT series defending champion.
The No. 3 Team Cadillac driver has weathered a season of ups-and-downs in his CTS-V, but is still in contention to defend his title.
This weekend's advantage has to go to O'Connell. The Georgian is the only driver on the grid that has raced and won on the Houston street circuit which runs next to Reliant Field, home to the National Football League Houston Texans. In 2007, piloting the Chevrolet Corvette in the American Le Mans Series, O'Connell, together with teammate Jan Magnussen, won the GT class.
"I need to win," O'Connell said. "That is the only way to secure the championship. So each lap will need to be attacking. We were very strong at Houston in the Corvette, and my win there with Jan Magnussen was very special. It is a challenging circuit with a lot of nuance to it. It necessitates that the driver is committed. It's always nice returning to a circuit where you have won before."
O'Connell is ready to help teammate Pilgrim who is also a possible for the championship.
"Andy is a world-class driver and certainly doesn't need any help from me," he continued. "As teammates we have always worked extremely well together to make each of us stronger drivers. I'm confident that we will both be helping each other in Houston and will have a pair of very competitive Cadillac CTS-V race cars for the weekend."
O'Connell's 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season stats include:
- Four wins: Circuit of the America's (COTA), Detroit, Lime Rock and Toronto
- Second place finishes at Detroit (race two) and Mid-Ohio
- Third place runs at St. Pete (2) and at Lime Rock (race two)
- Average finishing position of fifth
- Average starting position of 2.62
- Six fastest race laps Completed 351 of a possible 417 race laps, 84.17%
O'Connell received a 20 point penalty for avoidable contact in race two at Detroit to go along with four did not finish classifications. Those penalty points, if not received, would put O'Connell a single point behind current GT points leader James Sofronas, No. 14 Audi R8 LMS, who also received a penalty at Lime Rock for avoidable contact.
Teammate Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) is also very much in contention for the GT title. Known for his speed and consistent finishes, the Floridian is within striking distance to equal last year's second place championship standing or he can win it all. Pilgrim is looking to be a factor at the front come race day.
"With such little practice time at Houston I am going to take it one corner at a time," Pilgrim said. "I see good places to pass on the videos I've seen, so I am thinking we can wait and see as opposed to being super aggressive. Obviously qualifying will be critical. A good qualifying run with little practice and no track knowledge will make it very tough for all the drivers. Putting it on the limit and making a mistake in qualifying could end your championship hopes right there.
Some caution will be needed, there is just too much concrete to afford any errors. It looks like Johnny will be the only driver with any knowledge of this track. I will be talking to him for sure to get some pointers or to hear about particularly rough or difficult areas of the track."
Pilgrim knows the track surface will change throughout the weekend.
"I like the track layout, it seems like we will have some areas to pass, but the track will be very dirty to start and changing every hour," he continued. "On Friday, passing will be difficult, but by Sunday it will be a totally different track as it gets rubber down and also cleans up, which is typical of a temporary street circuit. I'm looking forward to running the track. I really enjoy Texas as I used to live in El Paso for many years. It will be great to get back there for the second time this year."
Pilgrim 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season stats:
- One race win at Sonoma
- Second at Long Beach, COTA, Lime Rock and Toronto
- Third place runs at COTA (race one) and Detroit
- Pilgrim has an average race finish of 3.31
- Completed 415 race laps of a possible 417, only GT leader Sofronas is better with 417/417 (Sofronas 2.85 average finish).
The Cadillac duo has been successful on closed street courses. O'Connell has posted two wins, Detroit and Toronto to go along with a second place and two third place runs on temporary circuits. Pilgrim has two second place runs at Long Beach and Toronto to go along with a third place as well as fourth and fifth place street race runs.
Team Cadillac will travel to Houston, Texas for the Pirelli World Challenge finale Oct. 4-6.