Cadillac says its ATS-V.R racecar is ready for its competition debut at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on March 6-8. The racecar is all-new for the 2015 season and meets international FIA GT3 specifications, making it eleigible for over 30 different GT race series around the world.
The ATS-V.R took about 24 months to develop, Cadillac says, with the Pratt & Miller team using computer simulations, data from the CTS-V.R and other new racing technologies to ensure it was up to GT3 standards. Unlike the CTS-V.R, it’s powered by a racing version of the road-going ATS-V’s twin-turbo LF4 V6 engine dubbed the LF4.R, replacing the 6.2-liter V8 of yore.
The first ATS-V.R built was used for testing purposes throughout the fall and winter at various locations, Cadillac says, while General Motors and Pratt & Miller were busy building two other cars to be used throughout this year’s Pirelli World Challenge season. Following tests in the car, Cadillac Racing driver and reigning PWC champion, Johnny O’Connell, said the new machine will still take some getting used to.
“We are still learning about the ATS-V.R,” said O’Connell. “It has a very nice and direct turn down to the apex. Which is a natural evolution over the CTS-V.R. You also don’t notice the mass as much. The downforce from the FIA GT3 parts gives you a little bit more confidence with the car in the faster corners. Developing a new car is always challenging, especially when you combine the development of a new engine as well. The engines definitely have different characteristics when comparing the last generation V8 to the twin turbo V6.”
Before driving the ATS-V.R, O’Connell’s teammate Andy Pilgrim had never driven a paddle-shifted race car, with the CTS-V.R being controlled by a sequential center-mounted shifter. He says in order to get used the motion of pulling the paddles, he’s been using his road car’s paddles to change gear rather than leaving it in automatic.
“The thing I am noticing most in the new car is the shifting,” said Pilgrim. “This is the first race car I have driven with paddle shifters and I’m really enjoying it. I am practicing by putting my CTS-V Sport into manual mode every time I drive it. I want to make sure the left/down, right/up shift pattern becomes second nature.”
Apart from the twin-turbocharged V6 engine, the biggest change from the CTS-V.R to the ATS-V.R is the addition of GT3-spec aerodynamics. As Pilgrim and O’Connell learned last year, the GT3 cars have superior aerodynamics which gave them an advantage on some of the faster, more open tracks, but this year, the competition will no longer have that edge.
“I am not noticing the ground effects to any degree in the slower to mid-speed corners, which makes sense, but as the speed gets up there, I notice the car sticking to the track, which is making fast sweepers a blast,” Pilgrim said. “I think the most interesting element about testing, so far, has been how comfortable I was in the car from the very beginning. Even though the ATS-V.R has stiffer suspension it was very balanced right off the trailer, which makes giving accurate feedback much easier.”
The Pirelli World Challenge Series will kick off with the Cadillac Grand Prix at Circuit of the America’s on March 8. Cadillac will certainly be looking for a repeat of the last three seasons, all of which saw O’Connell take the GT-class driver’s championship home to Detroit.