Cadillac Racing brought the best car they could have to Mid-Ohio for this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge race, but despite Johnny O’Connell’s second-place finish in round one, the team had to work extra hard to keep pace with the FIA GT3-spec cars around the 2.2-mile road course.
The weekend kicked off with a difficult qualifying session which saw O’Connell qualify seventh and teammate Andy Pilgrim qualify ninth. Upon the start of the first race on Saturday, O’Connell immediately made up for his less than ideal position on the grid, rocketing into second place by the time the cars approached turn three of the 13-turn track. Rain began to fall on lap 13, forcing some competitors to pit for rain tires. The Cadillac Racing crew decided to stay out, leaving first place all to O’Connell.
By lap 20 race officials had put out a red flag, followed by the checkered flag signaling an early end to the race. The finishing order was set based on the last full lap run, putting O’Connell in second behind Mike Skeen. Pilgrim, who pitted for rains when O’Connell didn’t, was classified as finishing in seventh place.
“I was able to get some good traction at the start and go from seventh up to second at the start,” O’Connell said post-race. “The car is as good as I have ever had at Mid-Ohio. Although we only qualified seventh, that is a balance of performance result. Like race number one in Toronto, we were able to hang around the front and it came out better than expected. When the rain started I had a couple of big moments. Going into Turn One I was crossed up a little and I think guys were going off behind me. When they stopped the race I was first behind the CTS.V Pace Car. But per the rules they revert to the last complete lap.”
Race two on Sunday saw O’Conell start from fourth and Pilgrim start from tenth, as the grid positions were decided by the competitor’s fastest lap from Saturday’s race. Upon the waving of the green flag, O’Connell charged to the front of the pack to duel for the overall lead going into the second turn. A caution flew on the first lap and upon the restart, O’Connell now in second and Pilgrim in fifth, the FIA GT3 cars began to show their might compared to the SCCA-certified Cadillacs.
Another caution flag flew on lap 22, the two Cadillacs now running fourth and sixth. O’Connell dropped one more position to fifth upon the restart, where he stayed until the checkered flag waved on lap 30. Pilgrim held his position in sixth.
“I felt I ran good races this weekend,” O’Connell said. “We came here knowing that we would have our work cut out for us. When you can have the eighth fastest cars and score a podium and a top five on the weekend that is attributed to the team. I am driving as well as I ever have. I came into this event thinking we would leave not in the championship lead, but we still are leading.”
Cadillac Racing will continue to defend its overall points lead for the remainder of the Pirelli World Challenge season as the series heads to Sonoma Raceway in California for the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma on August 22.