Team Cadillac Takes It to the Streets of St. Pete for Inaugural World Challenge Race Street Race to Showcase Cadillac's Performance Side for New Fans ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Team Cadillac will venture into uncharted territory when the SCCA...
Team Cadillac Takes It to the Streets of St. Pete for Inaugural World Challenge Race
Street Race to Showcase Cadillac's Performance Side for New Fans
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Team Cadillac will venture into uncharted territory when the SCCA SPEED World Challenge goes to downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 3 for a 50-minute street fight. Racing for the first time on an unknown track that's lined with unforgiving concrete barriers, Team Cadillac's engineers have put their faith in the known capabilities of the Cadillac CTS-V race cars and the proven abilities of drivers Andy Pilgrim and Max Papis.
"We've never seen these streets before, so we don't know exactly what to expect in St. Petersburg," said Dave Spitzer, GM Racing program manager for Team Cadillac. "A street course typically has a variety of surfaces - concrete, asphalt, steel manhole covers, and painted lines. Commuters encounter these same surfaces and hazards daily, so a street race is really an opportunity for Team Cadillac to demonstrate how our production-based CTS-Vs perform at the absolute limit. A street race introduces new fans to auto racing, and we intend to show them Cadillac's performance side."
While no one would confuse the streets of St. Pete with the historic Sebring circuit where Team Cadillac's black CTS-Vs finished second and fifth on March 18, both courses incorporate punishing airport runways. The front straight of the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg circuit is normally used by aircraft at the Albert Whitted Airport. The drivers then turn onto 1st Street, make a lap around Pioneer Park, and then skirt the Yacht Basin before returning to the airport grounds. The racing surface varies from a narrow 26 feet to a spacious 63 feet in width.
"There is a lot happening in 1.8 miles," Spitzer observed. "One of the challenges of a street circuit is that the track changes dramatically over the weekend. The track will get progressively cleaner and faster as cars put down rubber on the racing line. Our engineering team will have to make adjustments in the setup for the changing conditions and our drivers will have to cope with the different rubber compounds that are used by the various series. The capabilities of the production-based Cadillac traction control system could be crucial if there is rain on race day."
While street races are new to Team Cadillac, they're very familiar to drivers Pilgrim and Papis. Both have experience racing on temporary circuits and know what to expect in close-quarters combat.
"I've won street races in the past, and I've learned that a driver must be careful on a street course," said Pilgrim, a resident of Delray Beach, Fla. "You can't drop a wheel off into the grass like you can on a road course; if you do that on a street course, you whack the wall. You have to give yourself a couple of feet on the entrance, a couple of feet on the apex and a couple of feet on the exit. You must have the mental discipline to drive within yourself and within the car. Guys who attempt late-braking banzai moves are going to take themselves and other drivers out of the race.
"I love street circuits because they bring in new fans," Pilgrim added. "People who have never seen our sport before get a first-hand look at what road racing is all about. I love interacting with the fans in the paddock, answering their questions and talking with them about the technology that goes into the CTS-V I drive on the street and the CTS-V that I drive on the track."
With the longest wheelbase in the SPEED GT class and powerful GM small-block V-8 under their hoods, the Cadillac CTS-V race cars shine on high-speed circuits. Fortunately the St. Petersburg street course has characteristics that suit these high-performance sedans, including a front straight that measures 2,413 feet in length and a sweeping 1,940-foot back stretch.
"Looking at the track map, I believe that the CTS-V will be well suited to the sections with fast, sweeping turns," Pilgrim predicted. "We may be at a disadvantage in the slow 90-degree corners, but we'll have a good chance to make up ground in the faster corners."
Papis will make the drive from his home in Miami to St. Petersburg for his second start with Team Cadillac. Papis' previous experience in Formula 1, Champ Car, the IndyCar Series and top-level sports car competition has prepared him for the challenges of a street race.
"I've seen races in St. Petersburg, and this kind of track separates the men from the kids," he declared. "It's going to be new turf for most of the drivers, but I have experience on street courses and I feel really excited about being there. My goal is to put Cadillac on the podium.
"The driver who does the job in the race will be the driver who adapts to new situations very quickly," Papis noted. "You need to be able to react to new situations during the race, and that may mean changing your line every time you go through a corner. Precision is very important, and patience is the key to the game."
Armed with equal measures of patience and horsepower, Team Cadillac is ready to take its CTS-Vs to the streets of St. Pete as it continues its quest for the SPEED GT championship.
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