Pirelli World Challenge drivers hope to repeat Long Beach run
Team Cadillac drivers Andy Pilgrim (above) and Johnny O'Connell will take on the Barber Motorsports Park in this weekend's Pirelli World Challenge Series Barber Grand Prix presented by RECARO.
O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) and Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) will be racing at the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park located just east of Birmingham, Alabama for the time. The duo had the chance to get a view of the Alabama track through the windshield of the Cadillac CTS.V.R on the way to the season opener at St. Pete where they had a two days of testing. The duo come into the race with Pilgrim leading O'Connell in the driver standings by 36 points (224 to 188) with Cadillac leading the GT manufacturer ranks.
"The biggest thing the test at Barber showed Johnny and myself was which way the track goes," Pilgrim said. "This was critical as neither of us has ever raced there. The Barber track has a lot of high-speed and mid-speed transitions that will really suit the FIA GT3 cars. With wider tires, less weight and more down force than our Cadillac CTS.V.Rs it looks like we will have to be pushing to the max and have a little luck to be up front.
"On a track such as Barber, that has maybe one possible place to pass per lap, qualifying is way more important than normal," he continued. "This track looks like it was designed for motorcycle racing and as an ex-motorcycle road racer, I'm thinking it's brilliant for motorcycles, but with 40+ Pirelli World Challenge cars and barely anywhere to pass, we are going to be busy and we'll find out who can be patient and who chooses not to be."
O'Connell is coming off of a win at Long Beach. "At the test we learned a lot about the nuance of the Barber circuit," he said. "It was really used more as a shakedown prior to St. Pete, but also to get data that should be useful for the race. The FIA GT3 spec cars should be tough this weekend. Where those cars have a distinct advantage is in higher speed corners. Their aerodynamic advantage over us will be evident there in the fourth gear and higher areas.
"Qualifying is always important, but the track looks like the type of place where it is difficult to pass," he continued. "Having watched previous races there, I think most drivers would agree. It is going to be very busy to say the least. One of the advantages, I think, Andy and I have over others is experience working traffic. I'm counting on race craft to play a big role in both races this weekend."
The Pirelli World Challenge Series Barber Grand Prix presented by RECARO will have the GT cars qualifying on Friday at 4:45 p.m. CT. Race one will go off on Saturday at 3:55 p.m., with race two taking the standing start on Sunday at 10:40 a.m.