Cadillac Racing went to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend looking for redemption after getting wrecked by Olivier Beretta at Long Beach, but the team will have to wait another couple of weeks to put the ATS-V.R in the winner’s circle. With two Pirelli World Challenge races scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the team had double the opportunity to pull out a win, but they missed out on even a podium at the 2.38 mile road course.
Both O’Connell and Pilgrim didn’t appear as though they were set up to win from the weekend’s start. Pilgrim was the team’s top qualifier for Saturday’s race, putting his No. 8 ATS-V.R in tenth position for the race’s rolling start. O’Connell, meanwhile, was forced to start from 27th on the grid after his Cadillac needed an engine change.
Race 1 polesitter JD Davison led the field after five laps in his No. 33 Nissan GT-R GT3, followed by Nicky Catsburg in his No. 25 Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 and Mike Skeen in his No. 2 Audi R8 LMS Ultra. The race ran under a green flag until lap nine, when Christina Nielsen in the No. 7 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 made contact with Henrik Hedman in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, putting a yellow out for five laps.
When racing resumed, Davison remained the leader with Catsburg in tow. O’Connell, meanwhile, was busy working his way through the field. He eventually broke into the top ten and was able to move his ATS-V.R into fourth position before the checkered flag on the 50-minute race flew. Davison, Catsburg and Skeen, in that order, would take the three podium positions.
O’Connell qualified ninth for Round 2 of the double header weekend, while Pilgrim was 12th. A caution flag was put out immediately on the race after a car stalled on the grid, leaving the starting order of Robert Thorne in the No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3, Kevin Estre in the No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 31 911 GT3R for the restart.
After the green flag flew for the second time, O’Connell moved his way up from ninth to sixth and continued fighting until disaster struck on lap 19. O’Connell’s ATS-V.R caught fire and he was forced to pull it into the gravel trap on turn 5, quickly moving out of the way of the field behind him. O’Connell made it out safely as fire crews tended to his burning Cadillac, while teammate Andy Pilgrim drove past running in the top ten.
O’Connell finished 30th overall, while Pilgrim drove to a seventh place finish. Estre won overall with teammate Thorne closely behind in a dominating performance from the McLarens, while Dalziel gave Porsche a third place overall finish. O’Connell says Cadillac Racing has a lot of work to do on his somewhat charred ATS-V.R before the series heads to the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario for the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend.