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Sebring: Cadillac Thursday report

Cadillac CTS-Vs Are Fourth and Fifth on World Challenge Starting Grid Rain Cancels Qualifying for Season-Opening Race SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2005 - When rain washed out qualifying for Friday's season-opening round of the SCCA SPEED World ...

Cadillac CTS-Vs Are Fourth and Fifth on World Challenge Starting Grid
Rain Cancels Qualifying for Season-Opening Race

SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2005 - When rain washed out qualifying for Friday's season-opening round of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge at Sebring International Raceway, Team Cadillac's CTS-V race cars were fourth and fifth on the speed chart. With standing water on the historic 3.7-mile road course, series officials set the starting grid based on combined practice times. Consequently Andy Pilgrim of Del Ray Beach, Fla., will start tomorrow's 50-minute race from the fourth spot on the 31-car starting grid in the #8 Cadillac CTS-V, and his teammate Max Papis of Miami will start the #16 Cadillac CTS-V from the fifth grid position. The black Cadillacs qualified just .046 seconds apart.

"Looking at the weather radar, we weren't surprised when qualifying had to be cancelled," said Dave Spitzer, GM Racing program manager for Team Cadillac. "The track will be washed clean after the rain and consequently the race setups will be slightly different. It's going to be a battle tomorrow, and we're ready to go racing."

In Team Cadillac's first race one year ago, the twin CTS-Vs scored a dominating 1-2 finish in Sebring. Now with a season of experience and development, Team Cadillac is aiming for the World Challenge GT championship.

"Our cars are performing well and our team is operating at a high level," Spitzer reported. "We've spent a lot of time in practice gauging the competition, which is especially important for Max Papis, who is new to the World Challenge series. We want Team Cadillac to be on the top, but we realize that this is the first race of the season and that SCCA will observe our competitors closely and make adjustments as necessary."

Papis, the reigning Grand American champion, will add to his racing resume when he makes his first start in the production-based road racing series.

"I have a lot to learn about the Cadillac CTS-V and the SPEED World Challenge in my first race," said Papis. "It's going to be a very quick learning curve in a 50-minute race. I have found that Team Cadillac is a very well prepared and professional organization. I see a lot of GM engineers who work on the CTS-V production car here at the track, absorbing what it means to race what you sell.

"People are going to be watching for the black Cadillacs to come through," Papis predicted. "I have a championship in mind - a championship for Cadillac and a championship for me. That's what I'm going to think about every lap I'm out there. If the opportunity to finish on the podium is there, I'm going to take it."

Pilgrim powered through the field last year at Sebring to finish as runner-up. He's cautiously optimistic about another top finish in this year's season-opener.

"I'm excited to start in the top five, and hope to stay up front until the end," he said. "It was a wise decision to cancel qualifying in the rain because it wasn't just wet, there were lakes out there. There was the potential for accidents, so setting the grid by practice times was the right thing to do."

With more than 50 career victories, Pilgrim knows that the start is a critical moment of the race. He's anxious about the opening lap of Friday's sprint race.

"We have some young guys and racers who are new to the series up front, and we don't know how they're going to react," he explained. "It's always a lottery going into Turn 1; you go in there eight-wide and come out three-wide. Then going into the next turn, you really have to be single file. Once you get through the hairpin and onto the back straight for the first time, then you can start breathing again."

The race for the 2005 GT title will showcase Cadillac's performance side. Competing against two-seat sports cars, the four-door CTS-V race car has the advantage of the CTS-V street car's capabilities.

"We have excellent handling, and because of the balance of the car, I think we can preserve the tires over a long run," Pilgrim asserted. "If the race stays green, that's good for us because we can manage our tires better than the cars with more horsepower."

The opening round of the SPEED World Challenge will take the green flag at 3:45 p.m. ET on Friday, March 18. The race will be televised on SPEED at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 27.

-gm racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Max Papis , Andy Pilgrim