Cadillac Traveled a Long and Winding Road to the SCCA World Challenge GT Drivers and Manufacturers Championships in 2005 DETROIT - Team Cadillac's road to the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT drivers and manufacturers championships had more hills,...
Cadillac Traveled a Long and Winding Road to the SCCA World Challenge GT Drivers and Manufacturers Championships in 2005
DETROIT - Team Cadillac's road to the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT drivers and manufacturers championships had more hills, valleys, twists, turns and switchbacks than even Germany's famed Nurburgring race track, where the production Cadillac CTS-V was developed. With a world-class chassis and race-prepared GM LS2 small-block V8 engines underpinning its motorsports program, Team Cadillac raced its production-based CTS-Vs on road courses, street circuits and airport runways across North America in pursuit of its first SCCA titles. It ended with a championship sweep for Cadillac as Andy Pilgrim won the drivers' title and Cadillac captured its first manufacturers championship.
The quest for the World Challenge championships became a season-long test of speed, determination and teamwork that was decided in the closing laps of the final race. En route to the championship celebration, Team Cadillac scored four victories, captured two poles, and posted 13 podium finishes. Three times the black CTS-Vs finished first and second, and Cadillac made history with the marque's first 1-2-3 podium sweep at Road Atlanta in April.
"Cadillac's championship season was a tremendous achievement by the entire team - drivers, engineers and technicians - backed up by the enthusiastic support of the Cadillac brand and GM Performance Division," said Team Cadillac program manager Dave Spitzer. "I'm extremely proud of the hard work and effort that produced such exceptional results. The team worked tirelessly all season to achieve maximum performance. When we had some setbacks along the way, they always kept their eyes on the prize at the end of the year."
Cadillac driver Andy Pilgrim was the picture of consistency throughout the season. Originally an English motorcycle racer, Pilgrim is now a naturalized American citizen and five-time auto racing champion. The 49-year-old resident of Delray Beach, Fla., tallied top-10 finishes in all 11 events, highlighted by runner-up finishes in Sebring, Fla., and Road Atlanta and a third-place result in Cleveland. Pilgrim's success was rewarded with more than 200 pounds of ballast under the SCCA REWARDS system; but he countered this burden with racing savvy and sound strategy.
"This was without doubt the most satisfying and difficult championship I've ever won," said Pilgrim. "Under the REWARDS system, unless you have a couple of awful races, you end up carrying the extra weight for the whole year. Physics dictates you are going have to fight like mad for a top-five finish with a heavy car, so that's what I did. The drivers championship was the result of having a mistake-free season."
Pilgrim's progress to the title was anything but routine. In the season-opening Sebring race, he passed a pair of Porsches in the closing laps to finish as runner-up. He was fourth in the streets of St. Petersburg, and second in the team's 1-2-3 sweep at Road Atlanta. Competition adjustments imposed by SCCA officials (a 100-pound increase in base weight and a 50 percent intake restrictor) shackled the Cadillacs' performances in the West Coast races, but Pilgrim rebounded with a strong stretch run that produced three straight fourth-place finishes in the final three races (Denver, Mosport and Laguna Seca).
"We always knew that Andy is an incredibly fast, intelligent and consistent racer," Spitzer noted. "When it became clear in the middle of the season that Andy would be a contender for the drivers championship, the team wanted to win it for him. He's been with Team Cadillac since the beginning of the World Challenge program, and he's an outstanding ambassador for Cadillac both on and off the track. We really wanted to recognize all that he does for Team Cadillac with a championship."
Team Cadillac's second full-time driver was Max Papis, who brought European style and championship charisma to the SPEED GT series. "Mad Max" was fast, winning races at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, and starting on the front row three times. He was also a lightning rod for excitement.
When there was action on the track, Papis was frequently in the middle of it. Twice his car was hit by rivals, forcing repairs in the pits, while a first-lap spin in Mosport and a DNF in Denver foiled his championship aspirations. The silver lining was that Papis carried less REWARDS ballast than his teammates in the crucial drive for the championship. His victory in Laguna Seca clinched the manufacturers title for Cadillac, and secured fifth place in the drivers' standings for the popular Italian.
"We had two great wins," said the versatile racer who also drove a Corvette C6.R in the American Le Mans Series, a Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototype in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series and a Firebird in the International Race of Champions. "We really needed to win in Atlanta, and the victory in Laguna Seca made all the difference in the world. Both wins came in a spectacular 'Mad Max' way!
"We created a lot of entertainment for the people who watched the World Challenge on TV and at the track," Papis noted. "Our goal this year was to add more heart and soul to Cadillac's racing program. I felt we accomplished that, and I'm very proud of it."
Team Cadillac's third car, which was raced by a trio of accomplished guest drivers, also figured prominently in Team Cadillac's strategy for success with two victories. Max Angelelli posted a pole and four podium finishes in five appearances, including a win in Lime Rock. GM Performance Division director John Heinricy was runner-up in Mid-Ohio, and Ron Fellows won the Mosport round for the second year.
Team Cadillac's mechanics also played a key role in the championship race. Led by technical director Lynn Bishop, race operations leader Ken Flory, and crew chief Dave Albright, they answered the call to get their cars back on track after hard contact. Papis' CTS-V sustained damage in incidents in Cleveland, Sonoma and Mosport, but quick work in the pit lane returned Max to the fray and allowed him to complete more than half the race distance - a crucial threshold to shed REWARDS ballast. Pilgrim's race in Mosport began with a spectacular accident during testing that launched the car 10 feet in the air. After a hard landing, the crew virtually rebuilt his car, replacing its suspension, body panels and engine in time for the first official practice session. Pilgrim subsequently finished fourth and retained his lead in the championship going into the season finale.
"That was the hardest impact I've had in years," Pilgrim reported. "The crew from all three of our cars immediately set about ripping away damaged parts, doing a careful assessment of what was needed, and making the repairs until far into the night. When you race for a factory-backed team, there is much emphasis on the word 'team'."
Papis agreed: "The team won the championships this year, especially when they repaired the cars that were damaged in the race," he declared. "I was extremely pleased to see the professionalism and enthusiasm of everyone at Team Cadillac. No matter if we were winning or having some bad luck, everyone was always upbeat for the race."
The Production Connection
The SPEED GT pitted Cadillac's four-door performance luxury sedan against a field of two-seat sports cars. And when the CTS-Vs won, Cadillac spread the word with a motorsports marketing program that increased awareness of Cadillac's performance credentials. For example, the Cadillac Performance Tour appeared at 20 dealer shows, the Super Bowl, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show, and the Car and Driver 50th anniversary celebration.
"The success of Team Cadillac's CTS-Vs on the race track has given our dealers more reasons to talk about having such a great performance car in their lineup," said Cadillac racing marketing manager Karen Rafferty. "The Cadillac Performance Tour displays, the Team Cadillac web site, race-win ads in USA Today, AutoWeek and other publications, and articles in business magazines are geared toward spotlighting Cadillac's V-Series for new audiences. Through racing, we're letting them know that things are different at Cadillac."
The championship-winning Cadillac CTS-Vs were originally built on the production line at GM's assembly plant in Lansing, Mich. Although modified for competition, the race cars retain 58 percent production content by weight. Moreover, the racing program maintains strong links with the engineering team that designed the production version.
"The ability to take such a high level of hardware directly from the street car to the race car speaks volumes about the performance potential of the street version of the Cadillac CTS-V," said GM Racing director Mark Kent. "The engineers who were responsible for bringing the CTS-V to the street also had a hand in bringing the racing version of the CTS-V to the race track.
"By using GM facilities and personnel, we were able to draw upon GM's expertise to optimize the performance of the race car," Kent noted. "With exposure to the race car, the GM engineers and technicians gained valuable insight into race car structure and dynamics. The technology transfer was truly a two way street."
It was a street that ultimately took Team Cadillac to the top of the SCCA World Challenge.
By the Numbers: Team Cadillac's Championship Season
The following is a statistical summary of Team Cadillac's performance in 11 SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT events:
Victories: 4 (Papis 2, Angelelli 1, Fellows 1)
Poles: 2 (Angelelli 1, Papis 1)
1-2 Finishes: 3 (Road Atlanta, Lime Rock, Laguna Seca)
Laps Led: 90 (Angelelli 65, Fellows 17, Papis 8)
Podium Finishes: 13
Top-Five Finishes: 19
Top-10 Finishes: 22
Total Laps: 819
Total Miles: 1771.9