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LONG BEACH,Calif., (April 20, 2013) – Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim will start their Cadillac CTS-V race cars from the fifth and seventh positions for tomorrow’s 50-minute Pirelli World Challenge Championships Long Beach Grand Prix presented by Kia.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Geor.) and Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.), along with the rest of the GT field, have been dealing with limited run time on the concrete lined 1.98-mile, 11-turn temporary street course surrounding the Long Beach Aquarium and Convention Center. In Friday’s practice, a couple of GT competitors experienced engine failures and issues that caused red flags stopping the action as well as spilling fluid on the track. The only quality laps were done this morning prior to qualifying. O’Connell and Pilgrim relied on their Long Beach racing experience and the data and guidance of Team Cadillac to set up their cars for qualifying.
In the 15-minute qualifying session O’Connell recorded a fast lap of 1:21.742, good for fifth place and a third row starting position in GT. Pilgrim posted a lap of 1:21.963 good for seventh, which will have him starting directly behind his teammate tomorrow afternoon.
“Twenty minutes on a Saturday morning, you need more practice time than that at a track like Long Beach,” O’Connell said. “I think every team is struggling with something, just due to lack of track time. One of the cars left a lot of gear oil on the race track on Friday. Then this morning the Corvette had a big wreck. We lost a lot of valuable track time. This sort of situation plays into the hands of Cadillac Racing. We have great data, engineering and a lot of laps here in other cars.”
O’Connell’s qualifying time was an improvement from 2012.
“I am pleased with my qualifying run. I ran a 1:22.1 last year, being 122 lbs. heavier. I went quicker this year, as I should. We qualified about where we expected to be.”
“You have to go hard right from the start,” O’Connell explained about the beginning of the race. “But, it is never worth taking a chance and wrecking your car. You have to wait and see and be ready to take advantage of every inch.”
Pilgrim, last year’s GT class winner, is relying on experience for this weekend.
“Practice on Friday was a bit of mess,” Pilgrim said. “We had a couple of crashes, a few engine blow-ups and someone was spewing gear oil on the track. That can’t be helped. What should have been a 30-minute session ended up being one or two laps at speed. That meant that the 20-minute session before qualifying this morning was really important. Luckily, we had a good run for 10-minutes, before the red flag. We literally had three or four laps before qualifying. It helps that we know the place and have raced here several times before. We did the best we could. The car was pretty good. I am a little quicker than last year.”
“I had a good qualifying run. There were some waving yellow flags in Turn One, so I didn’t get my third lap. I ran my fastest lap on the fourth circuit, so that was pretty good.”
“We don’t know how they race,” Pilgrim said about the new faces that will start in front of him tomorrow. “I am going to have to be aggressive at the start. I can’t afford to wait. Like St. Pete, we are in the same fifth to seventh range on the grid. A few of the guys in front of us are fast down the straights, but not so quick in the corners. So we have to take advantage when we can. It will require a lot of patience. Last year, the race went green the whole way, but I don’t think that is going to happen this year. Judging by what we have seen in the two practice sessions so far. But you never know.”
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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