CADILLAC V-SERIES CHALLENGE IN DETROIT A 'HOME GAME' FOR CTS-V RACERS
Cadillac V-Series Challenge in Detroit a ‘Home Game’ For Team Cadillac CTS-V Coupes
Enter Detroit Rounds 6-7 as Driver, Manufacturer Point Leaders
* O’Connell, Pilgrim 1-2 in Driver Points, Cadillac Leads Manufacturers
* Wet Weather Plagues Practice, Run-Up to Racing
* Team Cadillac Races in Sight of Global HQ
DETROIT – Team Cadillac Racing returns to home ground this weekend for the Cadillac V-Series Challenge on the street course at Belle Isle, not far from its worldwide headquarters at the Renaissance Center.
If that’s not enough incentive for the twin Cadillac CTS-V Coupe race cars driven by Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim, then defending their winning streak on street courses could serve as well. And then, there’s the fact that Cadillac leads the manufacturers’ standings in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Series and O’Connell and Pilgrim are 1-2 in the driver standings.
In other words, there’s no pressure this weekend, right?
“Any time you’re doing a lap on the track and you can see headquarters, you know the boss is watching,” O’Connell joked. “It’s an important deal for us to get back here, since Cadillac is very involved in the promotion of this race. It’s a race track we expect to do well on.”
O’Connell won the first race of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Pilgrim followed with a victory in the streets of Long Beach, Calif. Belle Isle’s 2.080-mile temporary course presents a different challenge, said Pilgrim.
“The thing with street courses is they have variables,” he said. “This is not St. Petersburg, and it’s not Long Beach. You’ve got concrete going to sealer, going to tarmac, going back to concrete, back to tarmac…you’ve got all sorts of surface changes here. When it rains, they have different grips. Sealant can be like ice in the wet, or it can be reasonable. Depends on what kind of sealant they use. Likewise, concrete, if it’s really smooth, can be very slick in the wet or it can be reasonable. You just don’t know.
“You don’t want to be the first one through the wet corners.”
With rain in the forecast Friday, there’s a chance that all the practice sessions Team Cadillac will have will be in wet conditions, and going from wet practice to dry racing conditions is a handful.
“There’s not much practice time, and it seems like all of our practice could be wet, so going from a wet practice to a dry race is going to put a ton of pressure on the team and the engineers to come up with something that can work in the race,” Pilgrim added.
That puts a premium on qualifying, set for 10:15 a.m. on Saturday.
“You have to qualify well,” O’Connell said. “The circuit is going to be very difficult for passing, so you need to be up near the front, the first two rows. Any time you are street racing, you have to come up with a good setup quickly, and you can’t allow yourself to overdrive the car to where you can hit a wall and take yourself out. It’s kind of a controlled aggressiveness.”
“I think qualifying will be absolutely critical,” he said. “It’s supposed to rain this weekend, and that tends to favor the all-wheel-drive cars. I say this every week; if we come out of here with top-fives, then I’ll be happy. Street races…get out of one street race alive is good, get out of two street races alive is even better. Street races are tough, we can be fast here, I believe, if we can get a setup.”
Getting that ideal setup is going to be critical to the success of Team Cadillac this weekend, O’Connell said.
“The Cadillac is a long-wheelbase car and it’s heavy,” he said. “On the higher-speed circuits, you expect to do well. On street courses, we were thinking that if we got on the podium we were doing great. I think we surprised ourselves with our performance at St. Pete and Long Beach, but this is one of the tracks that might favor the all-wheel-drive cars or the Porsches because of the shorter wheelbase. You never know what’s going to happen, but we expect to do well because we’re Cadillac.”
The Cadillacs have done well this season, earning two victories in the season’s first five races. O’Connell leads Pilgrim by 14, 573-559, in the driver point standings. Volvo’s Randy Pobst, winner at Laguna Seca Raceway last time out, is third with 502.
In the Manufacturer’s race, Cadillac stands four points higher than Porsche, 37-33, after five races. Volvo leaped into the battle in third place with 25 points.
The Cadillac V-Series Challenge will kick off Saturday at 2:45 p.m. EDT for Round 6 and at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday for Round 7. Both races will be streamed live and will be broadcast on NBC Sports, Saturday, July 7 at 5-7 p.m. EDT.