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St. PETERSBURG, Fla., (April 16, 2013) – Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim are ready to take on round three of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships Long Beach Grand Prix presented by Kia on Sunday, April 21.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Geor.) and Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) sit fourth and fifth respectively in GT points based upon their finishes in round one at St. Petersburg last month. Since that time the team has run some test laps at Sebring, making up for lost time in the off season. The concrete lined 1.98-mile, 11-turn temporary street course surrounding the Long Beach Aquarium and Convention Center is the longest active street race in North America, having hosted the first race in 1975.
O’Connell used the first race of the Pirelli World Challenge season to size up his competition.
“St. Pete was the first opportunity for us to get a feel of what the competition level of the GT competitors will be for the 2013 season,” O’Connell said. “I honestly had one of the best race cars I’ve had in ages and even with driving a strong race ended up third only through attrition. My strategy for this weekend is to push hard, make no mistakes, and make sure to finish every lap.”
“Long Beach is a circuit that I very much enjoy driving. There are several good overtaking areas as well challenging turns. Of course qualifying is always important, if for nothing else, seeing how perfect a lap you can do.”
The Georgia resident has had success at Long Beach.
“I have some very good racing memories of Long Beach,” O’Connell continued. “My first race there was in 1986 in Formula Mazda. My favorite memory, so far, would have to be winning with Jan Magnussen in the Corvette in 2008. A peculiar memory would be racing Indy Lights in 1991 when a broken water main flooded the hairpin about five minutes into our first session.”
Last year’s Long Beach performance ranks high with Pilgrim.
“Winning last year is easily my favorite racing memory at Long beach,” Pilgrim said. “I had podiums before, but never the top step, that was very special. I raced there the first time in 1994. I have about eight Long Beach races under my belt.”
The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT point’s runner-up will put a premium on qualifying this weekend.
“Qualifying is important. The race is only 50-minutes long and a lot of things can happen on a closed street circuit. It will also be vital to get a good start. It is hard to pass at Long Beach. You have to save the tires as they can become very slippery towards the end of the race, particularly if the race goes all green like it did last year.”
“I personally think the run from Turn Six to the exit of Turn Eight is critical on this track. I try to be very clean and as late as I can on the brakes, but still keep good momentum. You can really gap people here if you keep momentum through the apex of these three turns.”
The Pirelli World Challenge Series Long Beach Grand Prix presented by Kia will run Sunday, April 21. The races from Long Beach will be televised on NBC Sports, Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. EDT.
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