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St. PETERSBURG, Fla., (March 23, 2013) – Team Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim finished round one of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in fourth and fifth respectively this afternoon.
O’Connell and Pilgrim started the 50-minute race together on the third row of the Pirelli World Challenge GT grid based upon their fifth and sixth place qualifying times. For the first of two races this weekend, the series’ officials decided to have the competitors come to the green flag using a rolling start. Tomorrow’s round two will be a traditional standing start.
From the drop of the green flag the Cadillac CTS-V race cars of O’Connell and Pilgrim took up positions in fourth and seventh places. As is the nature of closed street course racing, the parade effect took over. On lap 11 O’Connell was passed going into Turn One, relegating him to fifth position. On lap 26, a full-course caution brought the field back together. On lap 30 the race restarted with a rejuvenated O’Connell and Pilgrim, each able to make up positions on the lap finishing the race in fourth and fifth place.
“The start was pretty clean,” O’Connell said. “I was able to gain a position going into Turn One. The front cars seemed like they could get off of the turns a little better than we could. Early in the race they just inched, inched away and the next thing you know there’s a gap. Then you add in the GTS traffic and you almost lose touch. I had the Audi behind me at the start. It was a matter of time before he was able to get by. On the restart, Randy [Pobst] in the Volvo bobbled in the kink and I was able to get a place back on him. I am pleased with the race. Team Cadillac gave Andy and me great race cars. We will be ready for round two tomorrow.”
Pilgrim had a clean start and was able to make up two positions on the restart.
“Everyone really bunched up quickly on the start,” said Pilgrim. “A lot the guys behind me didn’t get up to the pack in the last turn. The traffic here is unbelievable with so many GTS cars. They are not that far off of us, speed wise, down the straight, but in the turns they are much slower. You have to be so patient with them. I don’t think you’ll see as much patience tomorrow. On the restart, I was able to make a couple of good moves and get some positions. I was able to get inside Skeen [Mike, No. 2 Corvette] in Turn Four and held the position. In Turn 10 Randy [Pobst] got balked a little and I banged in behind Johnny to make the pass. It was tight coming out of that turn, but I got by.”
Round One of the Pirelli World Challenge Series from St. Petersburg was won by Ryan Daiziel in a Porsche 911 GT3.
The Pirelli World Challenge Series, race two, will run tomorrow, Sunday, at 10:25 a.m. The races from St. Pete will be televised on NBC Sports, Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m., EDT. Live streaming can be viewed on race day at world-challengeTV.com.
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