Cadillac Racing’s Johnny O’Connell drove to victory in both races during the double header weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario this past Saturday and Sunday. O’Connell, who started from pole for both races at the Remo Ferri Group Canadian Grand Prix presented by Replay XD, is now third in the driver’s standings behind Olivier Beretta and Ryan Dalziel.
Saturday’s race started with a rolling start, unusual for the Pirelli World Challenge series. O’Connell dove into the lead and held it throughout three restarts for the win, his eighth ever at the highly regarded Mosport circuit and the first for the new ATS-V.R. Even though he took the lead early and held it throughout the race’s duration, it didn’t come easy for O’Connell, with podium finishers Kevin Estre and Butch Leitzinger pushing hard to catch him.
“All of the drivers in the series are strong right now,” O’Connell said. “Everyone is super tight. I had to hold them off for a couple of restarts. On the final one, Kevin Estre in the McLaren and Butch Leitzinger in the Bentley were side by side, so that made it a little easier to get away. It was a tight race. It is nice to get a first win for a new car. The ATS-V.R, like the street car, is very athletic and we showed some of that today. Tomorrow I will start from the pole, but we are doing a standing start. If I can get a good launch at the start I think we have the hot rod to add another trophy to the case.”
For Sunday, Pirelli World Challenge officials reverted back to their usual standing start format. O’Connell, again on pole, got to an early lead as the swarm of cars behind him fought for position. Estre prevailed and moved his way into second following the first lap, but a caution was soon put out to move a stranded car. After the race resumed, Beretta, Estre and James Davidson went three-wide at the end of the Mario Adretti straight, with Beretta and Estre making contact with each other. Both were able to eventually return to the track and resume racing.
By the end of the race, it was a battle for first between Leitzinger in his Bentley Continental GT3-R and O’Connell. The ATS-V.R prevailed over the Bentley, with O’Connell piloting it across the finish line 0.532 seconds ahead of the runner up. Teammate Andy pilgrim turned up 26th after experiencing a mechanical failure in the race, which also put him out of contention on Saturday as well.