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DETROIT, (June 20, 2013) – Team Cadillac driver’s Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim are at the halfway point of the Pirelli World Challenge Series. The duo currently sits second and fourth respectively in the GT driver points, with Cadillac and Audi tied for first in the manufacturer standings seven races into the 14 race schedule.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) is 146 points behind series leader James Sofronas. Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) is 59 points behind his teammate. O’Connell has had an up and down year, winning two races, the first at Circuit of the America’s (COTA), the second at Detroit. However, a 17th place finish in the second race at COTA and a 20 point penalty for avoidable contact in Detroit has put the defending 2012 Pirelli World Challenge GT Driver Champion back in the points.
Throughout the first seven races, Pilgrim has posted six top-five finishes with two second-place finishes at Long Beach and Detroit. An eighth place in the second race in the Motor City has put the series runner-up in 2012 hungry for points.
The increased competition, especially the presence of several very competitive Audi R8s, has raised the bar significantly in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Series for 2013.
“I think the competition is about what my engineers expected, once they saw what the rules would be,” O’Connell said. “Everyone was 100% certain that the Audi would have advantages, and the same to be said for the Volvo. But you need to give credit to the series for really evaluating data more than they ever have in the past to get the cars on equal footing. Last year we were leading the championship at this point, so I could be little more defensive than aggressive with my approach to a race weekend. Now that we are trailing in points, we need to attack at every event.”
“Penalties are never an easy thing for any sanctioning body to handout. I trust that the same standards will be applied to everyone for the rest of the season. I think we have the team to make up the points, but we’ll need to be spot on perfect for the second half of the season. I feel like I’m driving as well as I ever have in my career. My engineer John Lankes and I are getting better and better at understanding what we need in the car, and the entire team, led by Steve Cole and Mike West, are as focused as ever.”
O’Connell gives his projection on the rest of the season.
“We have done well on the street courses so far this year, and the remaining ones are both circuits I like,” he explained. “I’m really looking forward to Lime Rock. I saw my first race there when I was six years old and since I’ve won there in the Corvette. It would be nice adding a Cadillac victory there.. Sears Point is a circuit that I won at every time we raced there in the Corvette, but I’ve not had the results yet for Cadillac. I’ve always enjoyed Mid-Ohio.”
O’Connell is using the month off to compete for Dale Jr. Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevrolet at Road America in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend.
“It’s busy for me always,” he said. “I’ve been out to Bondurant to work on some things there, and I’ve also tested with Dale Jr. Motorsports to get ready to race for them at Road American in Nationwide, I’m looking forward to being a rookie again this weekend.”
Pilgrim knew the competition in the Pirelli World Challenge Series would be stronger than ever.
“The GT field is strong, exactly where we thought it would be,” Pilgrim said. “The Volvo’s will be very good if they are reliable. We knew the Audi to be a fast GT3 car and it’s been the strongest car out there and still is, even with the extra weight added. It has more aero in the slower and mid speed corners and that allows for very quick transitions. It’s going to be tough to deal with the rest of the season. I think the second half of the schedule will be a very tough fight with Volvo and Audi for manufacturer’s honors. No question we are in a dog fight. Johnny and I will be pushing our Cadillac’s to the maximum. There’s no other option. For my situation in the points, I am disappointed with what happened in the second race at Detroit as it was completely avoidable, but that’s racing sometimes.”
Pilgrim is looking forward to Sears Point.
“Only one of the coming tracks is a favorite of mine and that’s Sears Point,” he continued. “It’s a real drivers track due to the fact you’re never going straight there, which makes it unique. Also, I have never been to Houston so that will be interesting to see another new track this year. I really don’t mind whether a track is natural terrain or not, I just prefer tracks that are fast and we are not at any fast tracks for the rest of the year, but being at any race track is a good day. During my time out of the Cadillac, I’ve been finishing my next DVD, The Parent Driving Zone.”
The Pirelli World Challenge Series will return to action at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut July 4-6.
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