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St. PETERSBURG, Fla., (March 22, 2013) – Team Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim will start round one of the Pirelli World Challenge Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg from the fifth and sixth grid positions for tomorrow’s GT race.
Team Cadillac, the reigning World Challenge GT driver and manufacturer champions, started the weekend with two practice sessions today around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn concrete lined streets of downtown St. Petersburg. In session one, O’Connell posted a fastest lap of 1:16.181, good for third, followed by Pilgrim who drove to a 1:16.254 placing him fifth. In the second practice O’Connell, once again third, with a time of 1:15.852 and Pilgrim sixth with a 1:16.209. The opening weekend of the World Challenge Series has attracted a strong group of 15 GT cars representing brands like Mercedes, Porsche, Audi, and Volvo.
In qualifying O’Connell, last year’s race one winner, put up a time of 1:15.237 good for fifth place on the grid. Pilgrim ran a 1:15.473 that will have him start next to his teammate on the third row in sixth.
“Practice went alright,” O’Connell said. “It is always difficult on a street circuit. Guys are making mistakes, so if you have a half-hour session it ends up being 15 or 20 minutes. That happened both times today. Since we ran here the last two years, we have good data. The Pratt & Miller guys always unload a car that is ready to go with a good set up. The circuit changed for the second session and we improved. I was P3 and happy with that run.”
“In qualifying your disappointed if you’re not on the pole. We qualified fifth and sixth. We’ll see how it shakes out tomorrow.”
“If it rains, everyone has to run out there. Here it is very difficult and challenging with all the paint on the runway. Rain and paint don’t go together. Paint is very slippery when it gets wet. It will be important to be aggressive early in the race, because we will see full course cautions. The Cadillac in the wet is a very good car.”
Pilgrim is satisfied with his day behind the wheel of the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe.
“We went out a little later in the morning than we usual do for the first practice,” Pilgrim said. “We are usually the first ones out. The track was good. It was cool, so when the tires came in it was really nice. In the second practice I had a lot of traffic. We were working pretty hard on the set up that second practice and we made some nice changes for the race.”
“Qualifying was a little more humid than practice. The times weren’t much faster in qualifying until we got a lot of heat in the tires and the cars. I almost went as fast as last year. I made a few changes in the car. That seemed to help. I am happy we are in the top six.”
“Rain is a possibility for the weekend. It is going to be a gamble with the rain. All of the cars on the track – throw in the paint that is on the runway portion of the track, it will be a real crap shoot. If it is raining Saturday, hopefully cool heads will prevail as we also have to race on Sunday. I hope we can stay dry.”
The Pirelli World Challenge schedule will kick-off at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The race is run through the streets of downtown surrounding the marina and the Albert Whitted Airport. The World Challenge Series, race one, will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 with the second round on 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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