Team Cadillac Seals the Deal at Sonoma: Manufacturer's, Driver's Titles
Team Cadillac Seals the Deal at Sonoma, Taking Manufacturer’s Title, Top Two Spots in Driver’s
Pilgrim’s Runner-Up Finish Clinches Second in Driver Points
* Cadillac Tops Volvo for Manufacturer’s Crown, 82-69
* O’Connell Wins Driver Title by 149 Points
* First Manufacturer Title Since 2005 for Team Cadillac
SONOMA, Calif. – Team Cadillac came into the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma with a sack full of season awards already in the bag.
They left Sonoma with the whole thing, and it happened on the weekend of Cadillac’s 110th anniversary as a company.
Team Cadillac locked up its first Pirelli World Challenge Series Manufacturer’s Championship since 2005, Andy Pilgrim nailed down second place in the driver point standings with a stellar run in his No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and gave the team a 1-2 sweep in the Driver’s Championship.
Pilgrim finished second to Volvo’s Alex Figge in the final GT Series race of the season, just 1.131 seconds behind, clinching a tight battle for second place in the points over Figge’s Volvo teammate, Randy Pobst, who finished third.
Cadillac won the Manufacturer’s Championship with 82 points, followed by Volvo with 69 and Porsche with 68.
Pilgrim earned second place by 62 points over Pobst, with Porsche’s Lawson Aschenbach fourth, 45 points in arrears of Pobst.
Johnny O’Connell had locked up the driver’s title at Mid-Ohio earlier in the month, and he finished 149 points ahead of Pilgrim after finishing fifth on Saturday.
“It’s something to be very proud of,” O’Connell said of his first World Challenge crown. “This is my 12th year driving for GM, the fifth championship I’ve managed to get driving for them, and to do it now in the Cadillac is exciting, because this is an amazing time in Cadillac history.”
Pilgrim was focused on keeping second place in the points, and he had to stay close to the Volvo duo to make sure it happened. Starting fourth, he battled with Aschenbach up through Turn 2 on the opening lap, managing to fend off the Porsche driver for the spot.
The Volvos, led by Figge, took off at the start and kept a slim lead on the Cadillac duo. On the sixth lap, Pilgrim got past O’Connell for third and started in on Pobst. He got him on lap 20, coming into Turn 9, and made the pass stick through Turns 10 and 11.
From there, he chased Figge to the checkered flag. O’Connell, protecting Pilgrim’s rear bumper, lost fourth place to Aschenbach on the 18th of 26 laps and finished fifth.
“I’m just so proud of the whole team and Johnny,” a happy Pilgrim said in Victory Lane. “We got Manufacturer’s, he got the driver’s championship, and if I can’t get the driver’s championship, finishing second behind him to me is like winning the championship also.”
Sonoma’s 2.385-mile, 12-turn layout is not one that favors the long-wheelbase CTS-V Coupe, but Pilgrim explained that while it’s difficult to race here, it’s a challenge he relishes.
“It’s a difficult place to drive, because you’re sliding around everywhere, you really have to pick your moments and every corner has its issues,” he said. “You just have to stay in control, and you have these controlled, lurid slides going on everywhere. So you have to stay within yourself and try to push yourself. It’s a real driver’s race track.”
For the season, O’Connell amassed three victories, nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Pilgrim won once, had an amazing 11 top-five finishes and also recorded 12 top-10s.
O’Connell won at St. Petersburg to open the season, then swept the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader. Pilgrim won at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“We didn’t dominate,” Pilgrim said of the season. “It was all team. We did not have the fastest cars, we didn’t get pole positions, and it’s all about team and a car that’s reliable. They give us great cars, we do our job and we had to stay out of trouble. “
Cadillac Global Marketing Director Jim Vurpillat was happy at the end of the day.
“You couldn’t ask for a better was to wrap up the season with the manufacturer’s championship,” he said. “That was the goal at the beginning of the season, and when you realize your goal, it feels good. When you have two great drivers like Johnny and Andy, they’re the class of the field and it showed.”
John Kraemer, Cadillac V-Series and Racing Marketing Manager, made the point that Cadillac is once again at the top of the heap on the track.
“When we started last year, we said Cadillac is back, and this is the exclamation point,” he said. “Cadillac is back.”
Brett Sandberg finished sixth in a Porsche, with the similar machines of Brandon Davis, Michael Hedlund and Jeff Courtney right behind. Anders Hainer rounded out the top 10 in an Audi R8.
The season-ending Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma will be broadcast at 3 p.m. EDT on Sept. 9 on the NBC Sports Network.