Team Cadillac Qualifies Third and Fifth for Sonoma SPEED GT Pilgrim and O'Connell Optimistic After Strong Qualifying Runs at Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif., June 24, 2006 - Team Cadillac drivers Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O'Connell qualified...
Team Cadillac Qualifies Third and Fifth for Sonoma SPEED GT
Pilgrim and O'Connell Optimistic After Strong Qualifying Runs at Infineon Raceway
SONOMA, Calif., June 24, 2006 - Team Cadillac drivers Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O'Connell qualified third and fifth respectively on Infineon Raceway's winding road course in California's wine country. Pilgrim, the reigning SPEED World Challenge GT champion, claimed his best starting position of the season with the No. 1 Cadillac CTS-V, completing the 1.99-mile circuit in 1:18.198 (91.613 mph). Threading his way through traffic, O'Connell turned a fast lap of 1:18.425 (91.348) in the No. 16 Cadillac CTS-V. The pole went to Ricardo Imery's Porsche 911 GT3 at 1:17.943 (91.913 mph).
"That was a good, solid, on-the-edge lap," said Pilgrim. "I'm very happy to be up there in third. I'm also glad the tires held up - if they hadn't, I'd have been off the track big time."
The fifth round of the SPEED GT series is being held in conjunction with a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway. Consequently the timing and scoring system that's traditionally used at SPEED GT events was unavailable, making it impossible for the crews to monitor the lap times and standings throughout the 13-minute session.
"My first lap was my fastest, but there was some confusion about where I was in the qualifying standings," Pilgrim explained. "Fortunately it worked out really well in the end."
Guest driver Johnny O'Connell is carrying special graphics this weekend on his No. 16 Cadillac CTS-V celebrating the release of a free, downloadable Cadillac V-Series content pack for Project Gotham Racing 3, Microsoft's most popular racing game for Xbox 360.
"On my first lap I had traffic in the last corner, and on the second I was just driving as hard as I could," said O'Connell. "I think that we have our CTS-V as good as we can make it.
"SCCA gives priority in qualifying to the top-10 drivers in the points standings, so as a part-time driver in the series, I was one of the last to go on the track" O'Connell noted. "I tried to slow down and get a clear lap, but by the time I came around for my flyer I'd been passed by the guys who had already gone out. But when it counts, I definitely think we can outrace these guys."
The lack of live timing and scoring also impacted the Team Cadillac crew in the pit lane.
"It was a huge challenge, but our instructions to the drivers are always the same - put the hammer down and we'll see you back in the pit lane after qualifying," said Team Cadillac program manager Dave Spitzer. "This circuit is a real driver's track, and it puts a premium on talent. Andy has a tremendous amount of racing experience here, and Johnny worked here as an instructor. I think that gave us a big advantage today.
"As far as the engineering setup, I don't think we've ever nailed it as close as we did here," Spitzer added. "The cars were very well balanced. It's pretty rare when a driver says on the radio, 'I wouldn't change a thing, the car is great.'"
The SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT race at Infineon Raceway will start at 4:20 p.m. local time (7:20 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 24. The 40-minute race will be televised tape-delayed on the SPEED Channel on Saturday, July 8, at 4 p.m. EDT.