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MONTEREY, Calif. -Cadillac Racing driver Johnny O’Connell survived the Pirelli World Challenge Series Monterey Grand Prix presented by Cadillac season finale to win his fourth consecutive GT drivers’ championship.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) took the standing start from his fifth place qualifying position. Coming across the line to complete
the first lap of the 50-minute timed race he was in second position, with his championship protagonist, Olivier Beretta, No. 61 Ferrari in seventh. As the raced progressed Beretta began to pick off competitors coming from seventh to behind the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R of O’Connell on lap 16, 27-minutes into the race. Over the next eight laps Beretta was charging after O’Connell. On lap 24, as the pair of championship challengers were coming through the famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Corkscrew turns, Beretta hit O’Connell spinning them both. Beretta was able to get his Ferrari restarted quicker as he rejoined the race. O’Connell restarted his ATS-V.R and rejoined the race in 14th. A few laps later Beretta was called in by the SCCA officials to perform a drive-thru penalty. However, he rejoined still in a strong points paying position ahead of O’Connell. On lap 32 as Beretta was feverishly trying to make-up positions he had contact with the Acura of P.D. Cunningham in the final turn forcing the Italian to pull his Ferrari off track, handing O’Connell his fourth championship in as many years.
“What a crazy race,” O’Connell said. “I was able to get a great start. I didn’t think I was going to be able to get Dalziel (Ryan, No. 31 Porsche). When we went into Turn 2 I was behind the silver Ferrari and the red one got into me a little. I was surprised how fast Olivier was coming through the field. I knew he would get to me. But getting there and getting bye is two different things. I was minding my tires as best as I could while digging as hard as I could. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking behind the wheel there in the Corkscrew. He took us both out. He wasn’t really close to me. When we crested the hill he was four or five cars back. It was a Hail Mary move. I didn’t get brushed I got drilled. There was so much time left, he just had to bide his time. The Cadillac Racing guys build a strong car. When I got back going the car was good and still quick. I was thinking he was going to get a penalty and he did.
“I am proud of everyone at Cadillac Racing. This whole team is made up of Joe Montana’s, we are a fourth quarter team.
“We had some adversity this year, the crash at Long Beach while running upfront. I had a car that could of won that race. When I got taken out, I got a huge fine and hit in the points. Then at Barber we were running fast and burned a car down. The spirit of the team came to the front at that point. What people don’t see is the hundreds of thousands of hours that the Cadillac Racing crew put into those race cars. I am just the guy who gets to put it on display for 100-minutes on the race weekend.”
Jim Campbell, GM vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsport, said “Johnny and the No. 3 ATS-V.R team’s focus, determination and never-give-up approach made the difference, right down to the last lap of the season. We are so proud of O’Connell’s fourth consecutive championship. His win in the all-new ATS-V.R makes the championship extra special.”
Campbell added, “the ATS-V.R’s LF4.R 3.6 liter direct injected, twin turbo V6 delivered the right combination of power, reliability and efficiency to help Johnny race to the championship.”
Cadillac Racing program manager David Caldwell said, “what a season! We introduced the all-new Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3 into competition at St. Pete. We had some adversity throughout the season when Johnny was forced into the spare car for three races. Through hard racing and a great team of professionals from Cadillac Racing, GM Powertrain and everyone involved on the marketing side Johnny was able to win his fourth drivers’ championship.”
Teammate Andy Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) posted his best finish of the year with a fourth place run in the No. 8 Cadillac ATS-V.R.
“It was a good way to end the season with a fourth place,” Pilgrim said. “I really wanted a podium for my Cadillac Racing guys after such a difficult year. Dalziel was very good in the places where I needed more speed and where I was better I couldn’t get to him. He is very good and didn’t make any mistakes. We had a good run today. The last two races of the year I had two top five finishes. I am really happy for Johnny. Winning four championships in a row is outstanding.”
Since the team’s inception in 2004, Team Cadillac has amassed 30 wins, 96 podium finishes (including wins) and 27 pole positions. The team won the World Challenge Manufacturer Championship in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Team Cadillac drivers have won the World Challenge Driver’s Championship in 2005 with Andy Pilgrim and in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 with Johnny O’Connell.
The Pirelli World Challenge finale will be televised on CBS Sports Network Sunday, September 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
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