Team Cadillac driver O'Connell on Pole at COTA
AUSTIN, Texas, (May 17, 2013) - Team Cadillac driver Johnny O'Connell drove his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe to pole position for tomorrow's first of a double race weekend at the Pirelli World Challenge Series Cadillac Sports Car Challenge at the Circuit of the America's (COTA). Teammate Andy Pilgrim will start fourth.
O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) posted a final practice time on Thursday of 1:34.816 placing him third on the GT time sheet. Taking to the new COTA circuit in 90-degree temperatures this afternoon, he managed to post a pole position time of 1:33.539. Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) had limited running on Thursday's promoter test day with car issues, missing the final practice session. Despite the limited running, the Floridian put in a lap of 1:34.092 that will have him start fourth.
"Pretty nice," O'Connell said. "I really didn't think we were going to go that fast. We made some changes to the car to make it fast over a couple of laps, and it worked. Even though we didn't test here, I have run a thousand laps in my head and about five hundred laps since yesterday. I did what I had to do to lay a lap down, and we got it done."
O'Connell liked the way the Cadillac CTS-V drove.
"This track requires the driver to be soft and smooth. My engineer said before qualifying to use slow hands. Make slow soft inputs into the car and it will reward you. We had a great qualifying car. We will have to make changes to make it a great race car."
The reigning Pirelli World Challenge GT Champion knows Turn One will be a challenge.
"I love the thought of the standing start starring up that hill," O'Connell continued. "Hopefully we have a good clean start. The tight first corner will invite a mix of stupidity and bravery. I hope that we can get everyone through Turn One clean."
Pilgrim overcame the lack of practice time and will start his No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V from the second row.
"We had a rough practice day," Pilgrim said. "In practice we had several issues with the car. I missed some practice time. It is very unusual for this team to miss practice laps. The Cadillac guys did a great job to get everything set for qualifying, and we will start on the second row."
Last year's GT series runner-up likes the new 2.3-miles, 17-turn COTA circuit.
"This is a great facility," he said. "There are a lot of local fans and Australians here this weekend. I am disappointed, we are not running the long circuit, especially with the 53 cars we will have on the track for the GT/GTS race. It is going to take an extreme amount of patience in the race. We will come up on the GTS traffic in about three laps. There will be sections where you cannot even think about overtaking a car."
Like O'Connell, Pilgrim is weary of the start.
"I think it will be great starting up that big hill," Pilgrim continued. "People are going to want to go to the inside. But there is less of an incline on the inside and the ABS system on these cars is going to want to release, and you have to be ready for that to happen. I hope these guys are ready for that release. Hopefully, everyone will play it cool at the start."
The Pirelli World Challenge Series will run the Cadillac Sports Car Challenge at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, May 17-19. The race will be televised on NBC Sports, Sunday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET. Live timing and scoring can be streamed from world-challenge.com.