O'Connell and Cadillac Take Second in St. Petersburg O'Connell Rebounds for Runner-Up Finish, Cadillac Takes Lead in Manufacturers Race ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 1, 2006 - Johnny O'Connell relied on his Cadillac CTS-V and his years of street...
O'Connell and Cadillac Take Second in St. Petersburg
O'Connell Rebounds for Runner-Up Finish, Cadillac Takes Lead in Manufacturers Race
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 1, 2006 - Johnny O'Connell relied on his Cadillac CTS-V and his years of street racing experience to finish as runner-up in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT race at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. In his second career start with Team Cadillac, O'Connell mastered the 1.8-mile temporary circuit through the streets of St. Pete after an electrical gremlin dropped him from second to sixth in the running order at the midpoint of the race. He charged back through the pack to finish 7.973 seconds behind the winning Porsche, gaining enough positions to give Cadillac a two-point lead in the manufacturers championship.
"Maybe it's my years of road racing experience, but working the traffic really helped me today," said O'Connell. "I was running fourth at one point, and when we came up on traffic, I think I read what was going to happen and passed two guys in one move."
O'Connell's gutsy pass earned him the "B&M Oil Coolers Coolest Move of the Race" award. His racing savvy also helped him overcome an electrical gremlin that briefly shut off power on the 18th lap of the 33-lap race.
"I think that a switch might have shut off when I hit the bump in Turn 5," O'Connell explained. "By the time I figured out what had happened, a bunch of cars went by."
A similar electrical problem affected Andy Pilgrim. After starting sixth on the grid in the No. 1 Cadillac CTS-V, Pilgrim made steady progress through the field as spins, penalties and attrition sidelined several frontrunners. Pilgrim pulled off two sensational passes in Turn 1, taking the lead from Lou Gigliotti's Corvette on lap 20 with an inside move. Pilgrim pulled out to a 3-second lead, but the pace took a toll on Pilgrim's tires. Lawson Aschenbach's Porsche was on his rear bumper as the two cars made the turn onto the pit straight on the 31st lap. At that instant, an electrical gremlin struck Pilgrim's car.
"Apparently there was some kind of electrical problem, and the crew will figure out what caused it," said Pilgrim, who finished eighth after leading 11 laps. "Unfortunately it happened just as I was going by the pit entrance, so I pulled in thinking that something had broken. I recycled the ignition and it fired right up. I don't know whether we could have won because my car was really sliding around on the tires, but it was a disappointing finish to my race."
After a runner-up finish in the Sebring season-opener, Pilgrim is second in the drivers championship standings, eight points behind Aschenbach.
"Both Andy and Johnny drove phenomenal races today," said Team Cadillac program manager Dave Spitzer. "I'm proud of the whole team, and we'll look at the data and figure out what happened. We're thrilled that Johnny finished second, and we really wanted a win for Andy today."
Today's SPEED GT race in St. Petersburg will be televised tape-delayed on Sunday, April 2, at 3 p.m. ET on the SPEED Channel. The next event for Team Cadillac will be the Long Beach Grand Prix on Sunday, April 9. That race will be televised tape-delayed on Sunday, April 16, at 2 p.m. ET on SPEED.