It came down to the wire, but Cadillac’s Racing’s Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim have secured a third consecutive Pirelli World Challenge Series GT Manufacturer Championship for Cadillac following the Nissan Finale at Miller Motorsports Park Saturday. O’Connell’s first-place finish at Miller also helped him win the GT Driver’s title for the third year in a row.
When the green flag dropped for the final race of the season on Saturday, O’Connell and Pilgrim only had one plan of attack: keep the swarm of Audi R8s behind them to take the manufacturer title. Both drivers managed to get clean lanes down into Turn one at the start of the race, with O’Connell moving from his sixth place starting position up to second and Pilgrim slotting in behind him in fourth.
Pilgrim went on to finish the race in third behind Robert Thorne’s K-PAX McLaren 12 GT3 and Ryan Dalziel’s Porsche 911 GT3, while O’Connell came home seventh. The finish was enough for O’Connell to secure his third Pirelli World Challenge championship, thanks to his wins in Detroit and Long Beach and six additional second place finishes throughout the season.
“What a year,” O’Connell said post-race.”It is everyone at Team Cadillac. I am just the quarterback. We have a whole team that makes this CTS-V.R go. If you don’t have the whole package from the car to the crew to these great Pirelli tires you are just not going to win here. Andy is a great teammate and he was on fire today, he drove a great race. I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished as a team this year.”
Cadillac Racing says the final five races of the season proved to be the most difficult. The team took a weight penalty following the race at Road Atlanta, which dropped their average finishing position from third to fifth. To Cadillac’s delight, determined runner up in the driver’s championship Mike Skeen had an axle issue at the start of the first race at Miller this weekend and scored zero points, allowing Cadillac Racing to move further into the lead. The team says a mixture of luck, strategy and teamwork ultimately helped them win.
“This (championship) one is probably the most special of the three,” said O’Connell. “We had to overcome a lot of obstacles this year and we did as a team. We did not make a mistake all season long.”
Since the team’s inception in 2004, Cadillac Racing has earned 26 wins, 91 podium finishes and 22 pole positions in the Pirelli World Challenge. They’ve also won the Manufacturer Championship in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and now, 2014 as well. Pilgrim also won the Driver’s Championship in 2005, while O’Connell took it home to Detroit in 2012, 2013 and 2014. But can they keep up the success when they move from the current CTS-V.R to the all-new ATS-V.R GT3 next year?