Cadillac Racing’s Johnny O’Connell drove to victory on the streets of Long Beachlast year, but had the win stripped of him after SCCA officials found his ATS-V.R went over its allowed boost pressure for a split second. The veteran road racer is now determined to get redemption in California this weekend, having labeled officials’ decision last year unfair.
“Well in my mind, we did win last year,” O’Connell said. “Being over boosted for less than the blink of an eye, while in traction control, I think it was a bit silly taking that away from us. Naturally I’m highly motivated. I think qualifying is going to be critical at every event this year. That stated, if you look at last year, I led going into Turn 1 only to get punted. We fought back from fourth, and got the lead back. So it is important, but opportunities always present themselves. Certainly the fans at St. Petersburg were rewarded with two amazing races. The series has everybody pretty darn close. So I expect, once again, to see the same strong teams and drivers at the front.”
O’Connell’s teammate Michael Cooper had an equally rough go at Long Beach last year. The then-rookie experienced a car issue in qualifying that forced him to start from the rear of the grid, but he put in an expert drive to reel in the leaders and was sitting fourth with under 10 minutes remaining in the race. He then rolled through fluid that was sitting on the track and went into the outside wall, ending his day and relegating him to 15th.
“Last year I put extra effort into preparing for Long Beach because it was going to be my first time driving the circuit,” Cooper, who posted the fastest lap of the race last year, said. “I feel a lot more prepared coming back for the second time. I have been analyzing data, my notes and video so that we can hit the ground running. Qualifying is crucial at any race, it makes life a lot easier when you can start up front. However I almost made it to the podium from last place in 2016. So no matter where we start, I believe we will be in contention for the win.”
The Pirelli World Challenge race from Long Beach will go green at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday, with CBS Sports airing its coverage of the race at 2:30 p.m. ET.