Cadillacs Qualify Fourth and Sixth for World Challenge GT in St. Petersburg O'Connell Hangs One Out in the Streets of St. Pete, Pilgrim Copes with REWARDS Weight ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 1, 2006 - Team Cadillac's twin CTS-Vs qualified...
Cadillacs Qualify Fourth and Sixth for World Challenge GT in St. Petersburg
O'Connell Hangs One Out in the Streets of St. Pete, Pilgrim Copes with REWARDS Weight
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 1, 2006 - Team Cadillac's twin CTS-Vs qualified fourth and sixth for the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT race at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Johnny O'Connell turned a self-described "psycho" lap to put his black Cadillac CTS-V fourth on the starting grid for the 33-lap/50-minute race on the bayside streets of downtown St. Pete. Andy Pilgrim, saddled with 30 pounds of REWARDS weight after a runner-up finish in the Sebring season-opener, qualified sixth.
"I was completely on the edge," said O'Connell, who is moonlighting from his regular ride with Corvette Racing to drive Team Cadillac's No. 16 CTS-V this weekend. "I'm surprised I didn't put it in the wall because I was taking some big chances."
O'Connell covered the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in 1:18.791, nearly one second behind the pole-winning lap time of Corvette driver Lou Gigliotti. Gigliotti set the track record at 1:17.796 (83.294 mph).
"The team told me to give it everything I've got and hang it out on my qualifying run," O'Connell reported. "I really overdrove the car on the first lap and made some big mistakes, like missing the apex in the first turn by about 10 feet. I learned my lesson and made some adjustments for the second lap, and that 1:18 was everything I could get out of the car."
Andy Pilgrim, the reigning SPEED GT drivers champion, will start directly behind his teammate from the sixth spot on the grid. A veteran street racer, Pilgrim is prepared for anything this temporary circuit throws at him.
"I think there might be some fireworks with the guys who are qualified up front," Pilgrim observed. "Johnny and I are going to be watching what happens on the first lap very closely because if anyone gets sideways, the track could be blocked.
"My car was excellent today," Pilgrim noted. "The guys did a great job, and we're doing the best we can with the weight we're carrying. We were hoping to qualify in the top six, and we just managed to do that. Anything can happen in a street race, so it's better to be close to the front at the start."
Qualifying came down to a two-lap sprint following a red flag that stopped the first session. Team Cadillac's entries got up to speed quickly when the second session started.
"It was getting a little tense on pit lane because we weren't certain that there would be enough time for all of the cars to complete their qualifying runs," said Team Cadillac program manager Dave Spitzer. "SCCA officials made a real effort to make sure that everyone got at least two hot laps.
"When we did get on the track, the Cadillac drivers and crew did a fabulous job. All of Johnny O'Connell's years with Corvette Racing have given him great feel for a race car, and he pulled out a terrific lap time. Andy did a fabulous job as always, especially with the REWARDS ballast he's carrying this weekend. The competition is very strong, and we're pleased that we're at least within shouting distance of them."
The 33-lap/50-minute World Challenge GT race at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled to start at 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 1. The race will be televised tape-delayed on Sunday, April 2, at 3 p.m. ET on the SPEED Channel.