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Momentum Is With Team Cadillac in the Streets of Long Beach for Round 3 of Pirelli World Challenge
St. Pete Performances Indicate Recipe for Street-Course Success
LONG BEACH, Calif. – “This is our Monaco.”
That’s how Cadillac CTS-V Coupe driver Johnny O’Connell describes the Grand Prix of Long Beach, which plays out for the 38th time this weekend through the streets of the California city.
O’Connell and teammate Andy Pilgrim take the potent Cadillac CTS-V racers to those streets this weekend, setting up for Round 3 of the Pirelli World Challenge Series.
O’Connell comes in with the series point lead after winning Round 1 in St. Petersburg and finishing second in Round 2. Pilgrim finished fifth and third in the opening two races to stand third in the points.
“With the degree of attention attached to this race, it truly is, to me, America’s most successful street race,” O’Connell said. “Any time you have something this big and historic, it’s pretty special.”
The 1.986-mile road course through city streets presents a challenge to Team Cadillac, because it is so tight and technical.
“It is St. Pete, plus less track time, a weird schedule and a day of rain, so we haven’t really done very much on track,” said Pilgrim following a rainy first practice session on Friday. “Now we have a concentrated weekend. We’re hopefully as well-prepared as any team here, but this is not necessarily the best Cadillac track. We know it’s a good Porsche track.”
O’Connell said the most famous corner on the circuit is also the one that nobody likes.
“The worst part of the track is the hairpin,” O’Connell said. “I don’t think you’re going to find any driver that says, ‘I love this corner.’ It is such a tight-radius corner. I like the whole Turn 2 and 3 area, and then the Turns 7 and 8 combination, which is a good overtaking area. Turns 9 and 10, you have a variety of pavement changes that are very tricky.”
The tight layout presents difficulties for the potent Cadillac CTS-V, which has a longer wheelbase and more mass than most of the cars it competes against, but with a year of development under its belt, the Cadillac is better equipped to handle the tricky, concrete-encased course.
“It’s not the ideal Cadillac track, but I think we can do well here. We have done well in the past here, so hopefully we can keep the momentum going from St. Pete. I’m thinking that a top-five finish for both of us would be awesome,” Pilgrim said. “If we happen to get a victory or a podium out of this, that’s a bonus.
“It’s a street course, and you can definitely have a lot of problems here.”
Hitting Long Beach with momentum doesn’t hurt, either. St. Petersburg, another street course, proved that the CTS-V is growing up as a racing car, and in the hands of veteran racers like Pilgrim and O’Connell, there’s no disadvantage.
The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Series runs April 15 in the Streets of Long Beach. Live streaming of both races is available, and the race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network on April 29, from 3-4:30 p.m. EDT.
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