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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Team Cadillac missed the podium on Sunday during a wet, slippery and chaotic Cadillac Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, but that’s OK: the Pirelli World Challenge Series Manufacturer’s Title is within clinching distance with one race remaining.
The driver’s championship is all but locked up, as Johnny O’Connell heads to the series finale at Speedway Sonoma with a 176-point advantage over teammate Andy Pilgrim.
In the Manufacturer’s race, Cadillac leads Porsche by 10 points, 75-65, with one race to go, the season-ending Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25-26. Porsche faces an uphill battle to overtake the potent Cadillac CTS-V Coupes driven by O’Connell and Pilgrim.
On Sunday, Round 11 of the World Challenge Series went off as expected, given the rain that drenched the track all morning.
The all-wheel-drive Volvo team raced to a second straight victory on Mid-Ohio’s 2.4-mile layout, with Randy Pobst and Alex Figge taking the top two spots. Lawson Aschenbach used his rear-engined Porsche to take third ahead of the Cadillac CTS-V of Jordan Taylor.
Pilgrim finished fifth in his CTS-V Coupe, and O’Connell slipped back to seventh at the finish of the 22-lap, 50-minute event.
After a single-file, rolling start, the Volvos went to the front and stayed there, leaving Team Cadillac third through fifth in the opening laps. Taylor hung with the leaders for several laps, but the all-wheel-drive cars just drove away in the slippery conditions.
“It was interesting,” the 21-year-old said later. “It was my first time in one of these cars in the wet, so I had to learn that the first couple of laps. I was trying to keep up with the Volvos, and I thought we could have stayed with them for a while, but four or five laps in, they just started pulling away.”
That left Taylor in the position of holding form for Cadillac’s title hopes. He did, but late in the race Aschenbach was able to get by for third.
“I tried to hold my position, because I knew that all we had to do for the championship was stay ahead of the Porsche,” Taylor said. “He [Aschenbach] eventually caught us, he was quick in the wet, but at least we were able to stay close to him.”
It was a simple matter of power at the end: the Cadillac had it, but couldn’t get it to the ground. The Porsche could get back to the throttle sooner and that proved the difference.
“It was just power down,” Taylor said. “Those cars, with the engine in the back, they can just get to power so well. We were even through the corner, but coming out he could get the power down without an issue and just out-accelerate me. It wasn’t a good battle, so I let him go and decided to stay close because I didn’t want to wind up in the gravel.”
O’Connell and Pilgrim fell victim to Aschenbach on his run from sixth to third, and Pilgrim logged his second straight fourth-place finish at Mid-Ohio and third in the last four races.
“This track is very difficult in the wet,” Pilgrim said. “Because of the patching they’ve done over the years, it makes it almost impossible to race in the wet here. There’s only one line the cars can use, and that’s all the way on the outside. If anyone tries to go on the inside and tries to pass, they’re just going to crash into the guy outside of him. It makes it a one-lane race track, very slippery. Everyone was slipping and sliding.”
Pilgrim said the 55-car field did a great job racing in the conditions.
“It’s a tribute to the guys out there that we went green for most of the race with one yellow,” he said. “I don’t know any other series that could manage to get 50-plus cars around the race track in those conditions at Mid-Ohio and have one yellow. I think everybody deserves some credit for that. “
O’Connell slipped back to seventh at the end.
“That’s the first time we have run these cars in the wet, and we gathered data,” O’Connell said. “I don’t think any of us were very happy with our cars, especially at this track, because of the amount of pavement changes and sealant. You have to have your car right.
“We had great Cadillacs yesterday, and the strength of Cadillac is its engineering. This is a lesson that we’ll learn from, and if it rains again, we’re going to be much stronger.”
In the driver standings, O’Connell has 1,259 points to Pilgrim’s 1,083. Aschenbach closed the gap to 39 points behind Pilgrim, and that spot is still under contest.
James Sofronas was sixth in an Audi, while Mike Skeen drove to eighth in a Nissan. Tomy Gaples was ninth in a Corvette and Jeff Courtney rounded out the top 10 in a Porsche.
The Cadillac Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will be broadcast Aug. 25 at 1:30 p.m. EDT on the NBC Sports Network.
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