Team Cadillac Opens '12 Season in St. Pete This Weekend
Team Cadillac Ready to Conquer Pirelli World Challenge in Season-Opening GP of St. Petersburg
Team Seeks to Carry ’11 Season Strength into 2012
• Testing Gives Team an Edge for Season Bow
• More Prep Time This Year for Opener
• Both O’Connell, Pilgrim Excited for Season to Start
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Team Cadillac Racing spent the 2011 season catching up.
At this time last year, the racy-looking Cadillac CTS-V Coupes were just coming off their first on-track test sessions and the team had a lot of questions as to which way to go to make them fast.
This year? Not so much.
The 2012 season will open here this weekend and Team Cadillac knows exactly what it has. Two victories, including a double-podium effort in the final race of the season at Road Atlanta and a strong second-place finish in Manufacturer points, sends Team Cadillac into another year with a clear picture of what lies in store.
That’s a good thing, according to Technical Director/Team Manager Steve Cole.
“I think we’ll be competitive,” Cole said during a recent on-track test at Sebring. “Last year, at St. Pete, we were qualifying seventh and eighth, and with the development of our car we should be able to move up to the pointier part of the grid. Of course you never know, with all the new cars entering the series, but I think we should be able to run in the top five.”
Drivers Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim put the race cars through their paces during a two-day test at Sebring International Raceway and the team worked on braking systems, cooling, launch control and the thousand other things that make up a successful campaign.
“Our expectations are very high,” O’Connell said during a break in the session. “We look at how we entered last season; we’d had two days of testing and we definitely knew we were bringing a knife to a gunfight. But we’ve been so much better, improved our car a ton. I’m optimistic.
“When we got to the last three or four races, we were regularly one of the cars to beat. Not always, but we were pretty quick.”
Having that knowledge and experience in the bank is a positive factor for the vastly experienced O’Connell, especially heading into the season-opening St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
“Just the fact that we’re entering the season more on par with where our competitors are going to be is a good thing,” he mused. “Our expectations are pretty high. We have been building data, have a better idea what our setup should be, and that’s what this team is known for; the ability to collect data and apply it to future events.
“At St. Pete, I expect us to be better than we were last year, but you don’t know who is going to show up and who is going to be fast.”
The last time the Pirelli World Challenge Series took to the track, O’Connell won the race and Pilgrim finished third, giving the team its second victory of the season and its first double podium.
O’Connell finished second in the points behind champion Patrick Long last year, and won two races in Cadillac’s return to the series and the sport.
Pilgrim notched podium finishes in two of the last four races of the season and earned fifth place in the final points.
“We did some good testing at Sebring, and I’m very positive with what we accomplished,” said Pilgrim, who led Cadillac to two series titles in 2005 and 2007. “It’s hard to quantify what you accomplished in the sense that you aren’t measuring yourself and the Cadillac CTS-V against your competition, but we are in a much better place than we were at this time a year ago, I can tell you that.
“We’ve had a year of competition under our belts, all the development that goes with it, and from a driver’s standpoint, we are in a much better place than we were last year.”
That end to 2011, plus the excitement of having the CTS-Vs back on the track, is creating a ton of buzz back in Detroit, too.
“I have to tell you, everyone at Cadillac, [Cadillac Global Marketing Director] Jim Vurpillat, myself, the season can’t come quick enough,” said John Kraemer, Cadillac CTS-V Marketing and Racing Manager. “The 2011 season ended on a high note with us winning at Road Atlanta and both drivers on the podium. For our first year back, we had outstanding results, but it’s been a long winter. Spring is upon us. We can’t wait to get going each and every weekend to compete.”
Coming off a year in which a record number of Cadillac CTS-Vs left showrooms in the hands of happy owners, it’s a big opportunity as well.
“It’s about more than selling Cadillac CTS-Vs,” Kraemer said. “It’s really about the brand and the validation of the performance credentials of a world-class luxury performance line. That’s why we race.”
The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Series runs March 23-25 in the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Live streaming of both races is available, and the Cadillac Racing Media Kit is now available online.