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NEW YORK – Cadillac Racing drivers Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper are ready to kick-off of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT Series Championship with a double race weekend at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas this weekend, March 3-6.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga) enters the 2016 World Challenge season, for a fourth year in a row, as the reigning GT driver champion. He will be making the race debut of the newly colored No. 3 Velocity Red Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe at the 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit located southeast of Austin.
Cooper (Syosset, Ny) will be making a debut of his own, his first racing start at the wheel of the No. 8 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe. The New Yorker had an impressive run last year in the rain at COTA to win the GTS race and is looking for a strong run in his first outing in the top World Challenge class.
“For some reason or another this has seemed like a long off season,” O’Connell said. “I’ve made a few appearances for Cadillac, including going to the Barrett Jackson auction where I gave hot lap rides in an ATS-V. That was pretty cool as it really allowed me to show consumers the mind blowing performance that is now Cadillac.”
Cadillac Racing tested at the COTA three weeks ago. “I think the test went well,” he continued. “We logged a ton of laps and gained a fair amount of data. It was definitely good that we went there as the circuit is no longer billiard table smooth like it used to be, so I’m sure we found some things that will help us for this weekend.”
O’Connell is going for a fifth straight World Challenge GT championship. “There are always challenges that you need to overcome throughout the season. Last year it was the development of the new Cadillac ATS-V.R race car and coming back after the fire at Barber and the wreck at Long Beach. The field has gotten more competitive with the addition of a couple of McLaren’s driven by fast drivers and two new Mercedes coming, again with top drivers. Perhaps our biggest challenge, besides the other 18 drivers, will be the unknown. However, with the Cadillac Racing team behind me we have been able to handle those unforeseen factors, overcome them and put ourselves in a position to win it all at the end of the season. I see no reason why that should change for 2016. The team, myself and everyone at Cadillac is focused on going for a fifth consecutive championship.”
Cooper is looking forward to returning to COTA, this time in GT and a Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe.
“Last year’s season opener was my first time racing at COTA and my first time racing the Camaro Z/28,” Cooper said. “While we struggled for pace in the dry, we were lucky enough to get some rain for one of the races, which leveled the playing field. I was able to win my first GTS race by passing nine or ten cars in the first two laps. It was nice to get back there and run some laps in the Cadillac ATS-V.R. The test went very well, I was able to spend a lot of time in the ATS-V.R and gain some confidence heading into the season. We ran through countless changes and gathered a lot of data. I’m sure the guys have been spending a lot of time analyzing the data, which should aid our performance for the upcoming race weekend. “
Cooper has set high goals for his first season in GT. “I’m used to having consistent strong finishes and fighting for race wins over the course of the season. I expect no less from myself now that I am in the GT class. I am anxious to prove myself as a driver capable of competing among the best at this level of GT racing and of course helping Cadillac Racing win another manufactures championship.”
The Pirelli World Challenge Championship will open the season at the Circuit of the America’s with a double race weekend March 3-6, 2016. The race will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, Sunday March 13 at 10:30 a.m. ET. Live steaming can be viewed at World-ChallengeTV.com, live timing and Scoring at WorldChallenge.growsites.net.
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