Drivers O'Connell and Pilgrim second and third in points
Cadillac Racing drivers Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim (in photo) are ready for the Pirelli World Challenge Series Cadillac Grand Prix of Belle Isle, May 30 - June 1.
The Detroit Grand Prix Circuit on Belle Isle is very much a home race for Cadillac Racing. The drivers can clearly see General Motors world headquarters off in the distance as they race around the 2.3-mile, 13-turn modified street course. O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) has almost owned the island, winning three of the last four World Challenge GT races held on the circuit in the middle of the Detroit River. Teammate Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) has posted two podium finishes in Detroit. The duo come into the fifth and sixth races of the season, Detroit is a double race weekend, with O'Connell second in GT points and Pilgrim in third.
"First we will need to be mistake free," O'Connell said. "The concrete walls can really jump out and end your day quickly. Also the circuit has historically been a little bit bumpy and that is something that plays into our advantage. Usually on the bumpy parts of the racetrack our CTS.V.Rs excel. Personally I love racing in the shadow of the Ren Cen (Renaissance Center, GM headquarters building). The past two years Mark Reuss (executive vice president global product development) has personally come up and shook my hand and wished me luck. That is definitely all the motivation that you need to show off in front of your bosses."
Cadillac had good luck at the last street race in Long Beach, Calif., where O'Connell and Pilgrim finished first and second. "I'm certainly expecting to have a good result this weekend," he continued. "Based on Long Beach we know that we are very good on street circuits. Both the Audi and the Porsche have been given more horsepower for this race and that definitely has me worried. Running fast between the walls comes down to confidence in the mechanics, the engineers, and the leadership. When I see our team, I see guys that are the best. All that gives me the confidence to be aggressive and take the big chances that I need to in order to win."
Pilgrim likes the pressure that racing in Detroit brings and the team's track record on street courses.
"There is no doubt Cadillac has had a great run for the last two years in Detroit," Pilgrim said. "The car set-up is so critical on this particular track, especially on the frontend of the car. There is a lot of time to be lost or gained as we're in some of the turns for a long time. The whole race week we feel the Motor City, we can even see the Ren Cen going down the back straight. Assembly workers, engineers, retired employees all stop by to say hi at the race trailer. It's an atmosphere like no other. We're on home turf, we feel it and we push harder than ever to do well."
Pilgrim rides the fine line between aggression and control between the barriers.
"The amount of aggression you can get away with on any street course is directly related to car set-up," he continued. "You have to know exactly how your car is going to react in order to be inch perfect and stay off the walls. We certainly want Detroit to go just like Long Beach but, since Long Beach we have been cut back on power and Audi and Porsche have been given additional power; it's not going to be Long Beach, it's going to be much, much tougher."
The Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of Belle Isle will run May 30 - June 1. Qualifying for the World Challenge GT competitors will take place on Saturday, May 31 at 7:10 a.m., race one will take the standing start later that morning at 10:05 a.m. with the second race going off on Sunday at 11 a.m. The race will be televised on NBC Sports Network. Sunday, June 15 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Kyle Chura Associates