This past weekend’s race on the street course at Exhibition Place in Toronto was crucial for Cadillac Racing, as their CTS.V.R racecar is much faster over the bumpier street surfaces than the competition’s FIA GT3-spec cars and the team could use the extra points. Neither Johnny O’Connel nor Andy Pilgrim got exactly the result they were looking for, but still managed to put the Cadillac on the podium once over the course of the double-header weekend.
O’Connell qualified fifth and had already jumped to second position before diving into turn one. Soon after he would hand over his position to Kuno Wittmer, who flew past him on the straight in his Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R and eventually went on to win the race. O’Connell battled to gain two positions following two restarts, and began to feel the pressure from Mike Skeen in his Audi R8 Ultra late in the race.
“Week in and week out there is a lot of things that you can count on, one is that the sun will come up and the other is that we will get a good start,” O’Connell said. “We really focus on the first third of these races and the start is just the beginning of that component. The race pretty much went to plan today. I was able to get a good run on the Viper into one and then on the next straight he just out horse-powered me into the next turn. I had some brushes out there with the wall, and with a few cars, but the CTS.V.R stayed under me. The Cadillac Racing engineers improved the handling of the car and I am glad we have a super strong Cadillac. Position is everything racing on the streets. I had it and was able to keep some good cars behind me. A good points day.”
O’Connell finished third, with Skeen less than half a second behind him.
Pilgrim had a tougher task in front of him as the green flag dropped after qualifying ninth. Despite some issues with the way his car was set up, Pilgrim managed to gain three positions on the tight road course to finish sixth.
“Unbelievable out there today,” Pilgrim said. “Johnny moved up a couple of position to get a podium for Cadillac which is great. I was able to move up from ninth to sixth and I am actually happy with that run. I was able to improve on the start and I was getting pushed by Sofronas (James) in his Audi all race. My car wasn’t handling the best, I had some oversteer. I was able to take advantage of some situations from people banging into each other. I saw some ridiculous driving out there today.”
Pilgrim also voiced his frustration about the team’s lap times during the race. The CTS.V.R has typically been faster than the more aero-intensive GT3 cars on the street courses. Now, the team will have to work extra hard to earn points at the remaining road courses, where the GT3 cars can really shine.
“We are struggling a little right now,” said Pilgrim. “Johnny and I had the eighth and ninth fastest laps in the race. We are supposed to be strong on the street courses, eighth and ninth fastest is tough to take.”
Things didn’t get better on Sunday, either. Pilgrim was the fastest Cadillac finishing fifth in the No. 8 CTS-V.R. O’Connell meanwhile trailed in eighth. The race was won again by Canadian driver Wittmer in his Viper SRT GT3-R, followed by Anothony Lazarro in his Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in second and Skeen in the R8 in third.
O’Connell is currently leading the overall driver standings with 1038 points to second place Skeen’s 930. Cadillac is also leading the manufacturer’s standings with 67 points, but is being closely stalked by Audi with 60 points.