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AUSTIN, TEXAS -Cadillac Racing driver Johnny O’Connell won round two of the Pirelli World Challenge GT Series Championship race today at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Teammate Michael Cooper drove to his second podium finish of the weekend finishing in the runner-up position.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga) started his No. 3 Velocity Red Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe from the third position on the grid based upon his fast lap from race one yesterday. The field took the green flag and there was contact sending yesterday’s race winner Patrick Long’s Porsche into the wall and bringing out a full course caution. On the restart O’Connell was third with teammate Cooper (Syosset, Ny) behind in fourth. On Lap 5 the leading Nissan of JD Davison was called to pit lane for avoidable contact on the first lap putting O’Connell into the second position. On lap 13 he was able to get by the leading Nissan of Bryan Heitkotter into turns 13 and 14 and take the lead. In the next five laps Cooper was engaged in a three way battle with the McLaren of Alvaro Parente and the Bentley of Andrew Palmer. Both drivers received drive thru penalties for contact putting Cooper into second behind O’Connell for a Cadillac one – two finish. The last time that Cadillac Racing went one – two was at Long Beach in 2014.
“I started the race in third and was able to stay there exiting Turn 1,” said O’Connell. “I was focused on driving my Cadillac smart and taking care of my tires. I was waiting for the opportunity to get by Heitkotter. I set him up for a couple of laps and made the pass. When you get the lead you just focus on hitting your marks and being smooth. I was able to do that and Michael was in quite a battle behind me so that allowed me a little space to take care of my car. When I saw that Patrick Long was out of the race, I thought this is a championship opportunity. You don’t want to wish ill will on a competitor, but when something like that happens to a driver as fast as Pat you have to capitalize on the points and we did that today. A great one – two finish to start the year for Cadillac Racing.”
Cooper completed a double podium finish weekend.
“It is was a great one – two finish for Cadillac Racing,” said Cooper. “A lot of guys making some big mistakes out there today and we were able to collect a lot of points on some good cars. We were able to keep our heads cool and take a great finish on the weekend. It got real hairy there in the middle of the race. After Johnny went into the lead Hietkotter backed up to me and he was slowing. Then the McLaren and the Bentley got really aggressive and got into me. They served their penalties and we finished second.”
Cadillac Racing will have little time to celebrate as they travel directly to St. Petersburg, Florida for rounds three and four next weekend, March 11-13.
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