Team Cadillac 2013 Pirelli World Challenge Championship Review

  • Oct 18, 2013
  • Pratt Miller

Reading Time: 13 minutes

O’Connell wins driver’s Championship, Cadillac manufacturer title

DETROIT, (Oct.18, 2013) -Team Cadillac driver Johnny O’Connell defended his Pirelli World Challenge GT Driver’s Championship by winning five races over the 14 race season which concluded in Houston 12 days ago. Teammate Andy Pilgrim finished the season in third, and Cadillac won the GT manufacturer championship for the second year in a row.

O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) took the championship right down the last few laps of a very exciting final round in Houston. The Georgian posted wins at Circuit of the America’s (COTA), Detroit, Lime Rock, Toronto and Houston to win the GT driver’s championship by a slim 57 point margin. Teammate Pilgrim posted a win at Sonoma Raceway and was credited with eight podium finishes on the season.

“There were two big highlights to my season,” O’Connell said. “The first would be COTA where we first showed that we can be competitive. Personally it was an important event to reestablish ourselves as contenders for the championship. The other would be the Houston win. We needed to deliver in the last race, in the rain and Team Cadillac delivered.”

“I think I will always look back on that drive as one of my best ever,” he continued. “The conditions going from wet to dry were challenging. It took patience at times and when we needed to attack we had the car, which was critical. There was a lot of pressure on me that weekend and to deliver for Team Cadillac was very satisfying.”

“Currently there are so many positive things going on with World Challenge,” O’Connell explained. “I’ve seen over my three years the great improvements the organizers have made and I’m confident that in 2014, and beyond, World Challenge Racing will become more of a destination for top line drivers.”

Pilgrim capitalized on his race win at Sonoma to place third in the GT championship while playing a significant role in helping Team Cadillac win the manufacturer title and O’Connell the driver’s championship.

“I had a really good year,” Pilgrim said. “I felt that I was driving as well as I ever have. We had some set-up gremlins to sort out early in the season, but once we got a handle on things we were getting stronger and stronger right through to the end of the year.”

“There were way more high points than low points that’s for sure,” he continued. “The Detroit crash was avoidable and not a great way to end that weekend, but I cannot complain. The high points were numerous. The hard fought second place finish at COTA with both rear tires falling apart was a good one. The race at Mid-Ohio, racing Mike Skeen for fourth place was a really memorable scrap down to the last turn. The win at Sonoma was great and the final round street fight in Houston capped off the year with me having a bump and banging few laps to pass the two Audi R8s to help Johnny win his second straight championship. The Houston race weekend was a bit like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone, every minute, things just kept getting weirder and weirder. We started in the rain, the track dried and all of the drama from the green to the checker was exciting for both the drivers and the fans.”

John Kraemer, Cadillac V-Series Marketing Manager, was pleased with the race results as well as the Team Cadillac presence within the event.

“Everyone at Cadillac is ecstatic that Team Cadillac won our second consecutive manufacturer title and that Johnny won and defended the driver’s championship,” Kraemer said. “Throughout the season we built quite a following, we entertained over 600 Cadillac CTS-V owners who enthusiastically supported the racing effort throughout the year. We interacted and educated thousands more on Cadillac products through our at the track activation. We are looking forward to even more competition in 2014 and expanding the Team Cadillac fan base over the 16 race schedule.”

2013 Pirelli World Challenge Drivers’ Points Standings:

Johnny O’Connell, Team Cadillac, Cadillac CTS-V, 1481

James Sofronas, GMG Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, 1444

Andy Pilgrim, Team Cadillac, Cadillac CTS-V, 1379

Randy Pobst, K-Pax Volvo S60, 1321

Alex Figge, K-Pax Volvo S60, 1177

2013 Pirelli World Challenge Manufacturer Championship Points:

Cadillac 109

Audi 82

Volvo 80

Chevrolet 30

O’Connell’s 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season stats include:

  • * Five wins: COTA, Detroit, Lime Rock, Toronto and Houston
  • * Second place finishes at Detroit (race two) and Mid-Ohio
  • * Third place runs at St. Pete (2) and at Lime Rock (race two)
  • * Average finishing position of fifth
  • * Average starting position of 2.62
  • * Seven fastest race laps
  • * Completed 380 of a possible 446
  • Pilgrim 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season stats:
  • * One race win at Sonoma
  • * Second at Long Beach, COTA, Lime Rock and Toronto
  • * Third place runs at COTA (race one), Detroit and Houston
  • * Pilgrim has an average race finish of 3.31
  • * Completed 444 race laps of a possible 446

The Pirelli World Challenge Championship season finale FOAMETIX Grand Prix of Houston will be televised on NBC Sports, Sunday, October 20 at 4 p.m. ET.

Pirelli World Challenge Championships Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg,

March 23-24

O’Connell started fifth, finished third; race two, started fourth, finished third

Pilgrim started sixth finished fifth; race two started sixth, finished fourth

O’Connell and Pilgrim started the 50-minute first 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.

Tampa Race 2

Based upon their fastest race laps O’Connell started the second race of the double event weekend from fourth, with teammate Pilgrim starting directly behind him in sixth. Unlike the first race, the Pirelli World Challenge officials went back to the traditional standing start for this morning’s race.

With light precipitation in the air, the Cadillac CTS-V racers of O’Connell and Pilgrim jumped off of the starting grid and headed to Turn One. O’Connell was able to put his CTS-V Coupe between the Corvette of Michael Skeen and the apex picking up a position in fifth with teammate Pilgrim following in behind. As the race progressed the threat of rain went away and left the Pirelli World Challenge competitors to run the 50-minute event without a caution. On lap 30, the front runners began to experience problems. Early race leader Alex Figge, No. 9 Volvo, experienced engine problems and retired, he was soon followed in by second place runner Dalziel with a flat tire on his Porsche. Keeping the pressure on, O’Connell was able to drive his No. 3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V Coupe to a podium paying position of third. Pilgrim came to the checkered flag in fifth.

Pirelli World Challenge Championships Long Beach Grand Prix presented by Kia, April 21

O’Connell started fifth, finished eighth

Pilgrim started seventh finished second

At the start of the 50-minute race through the streets of Long Beach, Pilgrim and O’Connell both had very strong starts from their seventh and fifth-place starting positions. By Turn One, O’Connell was third and Pilgrim had moved to fifth. The Cadillac duo was taking advantage of every opportunity in the early laps. On lap two, O’Connell passed Sofronas in the Audi (the eventual winner) for second place. Two circuits later Pilgrim moved past the Corvette of Mike Skeen to take over fourth position. The first of two full course cautions flew on lap 15. The subsequent restart on lap 20 had the top four GT competitors nose-to-tail. Six laps later the lead Volvo (No. 9 of Alex Figge) had a brake issue and spun going into Turn One, giving O’Connell the lead. Soon after the Flowery Branch, Ga. resident radioed that he had lost water pressure. At the same moment, the second full-course flag flew. The team had O’Connell nursing the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe around under the yellow when eventually he came to a stop just five turns from the checkered flag robbing him of a win. After the race Team Cadillac pulled a three-inch piece of steel from the radiator of the No. 3 Cadillac that came from the Volvo.

Pirelli World Challenge Series Cadillac Sports Car Challenge GT win at the Circuit of the America’s (COTA), May 18-19

O’Connell started first, finished first; race two started first, finished seventeenth

Pilgrim started fourth, finished third; race two started fourth, finished second

O’Connell got a great start from his pole position. The strong start had O’Connell leading up the steep hill of COTA into Turn One. Just two corners into the race the caution flag flew, the first of two, bunching the field back up. The Georgian’s No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V handled the restarts and led the 50-minute race from start to finish.

Teammate Pilgrim had to work twice as hard to find his way onto the GT podium in third place. At the start, the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V stalled on the grid. The stall negated his second row qualifying position as the other 18 cars in the field went by him as he restarted the Cadillac. With nothing but opportunity in front of him, Pilgrim began his drive back through the field. By the restart of the first yellow, he was tenth, by lap 10 he was sixth and by lap 20 he was fourth. He was then locked in a battle with the fast Volvo of Randy Pobst, eventually getting by in the esses with three laps remaining to take the last spot on the podium alongside teammate O’Connell.

Race Two

O’Connell started from the pole position for the second race based upon running the fastest lap of the first race, which he won. O’Connell got another strong start and raced into the lead. On the second lap, O’Connell pulled off the track in Turn 12 with a steering issue on the CTS-V Coupe.

Teammate Pilgrim also got a good start following his teammate into Turn One, making it a Cadillac one-two on the first lap. As the race progressed, Pilgrim managed to lead 13 laps while being hounded by the Audi competitors. He was passed on lap 14 by the eventual winning Audi R8 of James Sofronas. Two laps later he was passed by the No. 24 Audi of Duncan Ende. On lap 20 the only caution of the race flew. The restart on lap 24 was the opportunity Pilgrim needed to get second place back for his second podium finish of the weekend.

Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac V-Series Challenge GT race on Detroit’s Belle Isle June 1-2

O’Connell started first, finished first; race two started third, finished second

Pilgrim started fourth, finished third, race two started fourth, finished second

O’Connell came to the rolling start of the 50-minute race from the pole position. Getting a strong jump he managed to the lead entire 25-lap race fending off his pursuers through three restarts. For O’Connell, the victory was his second on the season and third for Cadillac on Belle Isle.

Teammate Pilgrim started from fourth position and made quick work of the third-place Audi, passing him in Turn Three following the first restart. The Cadillac duo will be looking for a repeat result in the second race of the weekend to go off at 12 p.m. tomorrow.

Race Two

O’Connell was hoping to carry the momentum forward from the previous day when he won the first race of the weekend in his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. In qualifying this morning, O’Connell ran a time of 1:33.368 to start third, with teammate Pilgrim starting alongside in fourth with a time of 1:33.989. At the start of the race, O’Connell was able to get the power of the 6.2-liter Cadillac engine to the ground and exit Turn Two in second place. Then, between turns two and three the caution lights came on inside the cars and the front runners slowed. One turn later the race went green again. This gave front-runner and eventual winner Randy Pobst’s Volvo a gap to O’Connell in second and cost Pilgrim positions as well. The duo pressed forward. On lap nine the first of three caution flags flew with O’Connell in second and Pilgrim running in fourth. The race went green again on lap 14 and then immediately to yellow on the same lap. On lap 20 the race resumed. Pilgrim was able to get a run at the exit of Turn Two and had the Audi of James Sofronas lined up, for the second day in a row, to make the pass on the outside before Turn Three. Sofronas was not going to have the move repeated and took Pilgrim deep into the corner using the Cadillac to help stop the Audi. Andy turned in and was hit from behind parking his No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V in the middle of the corner. Before he could get going, he was hit once again rendering him immobile. The race ended under caution.

Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of Lime Rock, July 5-6

O’Connell starts first, finishes first; race two, starts first, finishes first

Pilgrim starts second, finishes second; race two starts second, finishes second

The Cadillac duo started from the front row for the 50-minute race with O’Connell on pole. From the drop of the green with a rolling start the Georgia based driver sped off into the lead. On lap five, O’Connell was held up in traffic, giving way to the eventual winner Mike Skeen in his Corvette. Following the only caution flag of the race on lap 33, O’Connell was running second with Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla.) in third. Coming through the last turn of the final lap O’Connell was held up and teammate Pilgrim used his momentum to carrying him by into second at the checkered flag.

Race Two

Coming back from second and third-place finishes, Pilgrim second and O’Connell third, in the first race at Lime Rock, the duo improved one position each on today’s podium to make it a Team Cadillac win for O’Connell and second place for teammate Pilgrim.

Starting from the pole, based upon running the fastest lap in yesterday’s race, O’Connell was able to speed off into the lead. Teammate Pilgrim started third, directly behind the No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V of O’Connell, but the Volvo of Randy Post beat him to Turn One, putting the Cadillac drivers one and three for the first nine laps. On lap nine, Pilgrim was hounding Pobst and made the pass into Turn Three. The race witnessed one caution on lap 27, which bunched the field. On the restart, there was the lapped No.12 Nissan of Tim Bell between O’Connell and Pilgrim. Pilgrim made quick work of the Nissan, but his pursuers were caught behind the GTR as the Cadillac duo were able to get some breathing room thanks to lap traffic.

Pirelli World Challenge Toronto Grand Prix GT at Exhibition Place, July 14

O’Connell wins, Pilgrim second

When the lights on the starting lamp went off the Volvo of Alex Figge, starting second, got the jump on O’Connell into Turn One. Pilgrim filled in fourth position. As the race progressed O’Connell was hounding the Volvo for the top spot in GT. On lap 12, with reported water on the track in Turn Six, Figge spun and O’Connell assumed the lead. Nine laps later, the No. 14 Audi of James Sofronas had a moment going into Turn One, went wide, which allowed Pilgrim to take over the second position. For the remainder of the 50-minute race, the No. 3 and No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V cars went on to take the checkered flag. O’Connell logs his fourth win of the season.

Pirelli World Challenge Championship race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Aug. 3-4

O’Connell starts fifth, finishes second; race two starts third, finishes eleventh

Pilgrim starts eighth, finishes fifth, race two starts fifth, finishes fourth

Jordan Taylor start third, finishes seventh; race two starts eighth, finishes twelfth

The rolling start had the Pirelli World Challenge field funneling into Turn Three with O’Connell on the move from his third row qualifying position. By Turn Five, O’Connell moved his CTS-V into third position. The same aggression was shown by teammate Pilgrim who moved up two positions from his eighth-place start. Taylor (Apopka, Fla.) followed Pilgrim through in seventh. The next eight laps were uneventful until the GT field caught the back of the GTS Class and traffic began to play a role. On lap 11 O’Connell was able to squeeze by Randy Pobst’s Volvo to take over second. Pilgrim was able to get by the Corvette of Mike Skeen and take the fifth position with Taylor following on lap 16. Taylor would give back the position when he got balked in traffic a few circuits later. The race was won by Alex Figge in the Volvo.

Race Two

From the excitement of the standing start O’Connell was able to fall in line and run in fourth. Teammate Pilgrim had to avoid Taylor (Apopka, Fla.) who had wheel spin and the pair carried on in fifth and eighth. As the eventual winner Alex Figge in the Volvo, checked out, the Cadillac trio was embroiled in a battle with the third through eighth place runners for the first 14 laps. On Lap 14 Taylor reported a low voltage warning and coasted to a stop at the infield just off Turn Two. One half a lap later O’Connell was pushing to get third and hit the back of the Audi of James Sofronas, who checked-up behind a slower GTS car, forcing O’Connell to pit and retire. Pilgrim was able to make a late race pass on the Corvette of Mike Skeen to take fourth.

Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma, Aug. 25

O’Connell started first, finished eleventh

Pilgrim started second, finished first

Pilgrim was able to get a strong standing start from his front row grid position. He sped by teammate O’Connell who was stalled on the grid. Pilgrim was side-by-side with the Volvo of Randy Pobst into Turn Two, but was able to hold the lead. On lap seven the only caution of the race flew. The Florida based driver was able to control the restart to lead every lap of the race for his first victory of the season.

Pirelli World Challenge FOAMETIX Grand Prix of Houston, Oct. 6.

O’Connell started second, finished first

Pilgrim started third, finished third

The 90-degree temperatures with the high humidity of the practice days gave way to mid-60s and rain on race morning. Track action was delayed for more than an hour as rain blanketed the greater Houston area. The Pirelli World Challenge race started in the rain and would end in drying conditions.

The World Challenge officials scrubbed the traditional standing start and began the event under yellow in a single file with GT points leader James Sofronas, No. 14 Audi R8, on the pole. O’Connell was slotted in second when the race took the green flag. The early going had the drivers making in-car adjustments to maximize traction in the wet conditions on the 1.7-mile, 10-turn track that runs alongside Reliant Field, home to the Texans NFL team. In the early laps O’Connell fell back to fourth position. As the rain stopped and the track began to dry the temperature rose and so did the level of on track action. Rene Rast, No. 95 Audi R8, was brought in to help Sofronas secure the championship. Rast was lapping in the rain better than three seconds faster than the field. Early contact by Rast and Volvo driver Alex Figge had him chasing the field. Rast was able to catch O’Connell on lap 17 and get in front of the No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V, doing his job a “blocker” for points leader Sofronas. As the Volvo S60 with its four-wheel drive driven by Randy Pobst was passing Sofronas for the lead O’Connell was battling with the two Audi R8s. As the track began to dry O’Connell began to make his moves. O’Connell went by Rast on lap 21 for third place. On the next lap the Flowery Branch resident passed Sofronas for second. The points scenario dictated that O’Connell win as he set his sights on Pobst. On lap 26 going into Turn Two O’Connell took the Volvo deep under braking making the championship winning pass to take the win, his fifth on the year, and the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge Driver’s Championship.

The 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Championship will kick-off at the Tampa St. Petersburg Grand Prix March 28-30, 2014.

Team Cadillac 2013 Pirelli World Challenge GT Results

Event: St. Petersburg

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 5, 4; 6, 6

Finish: 3, 3; 4, 5

Event: Long Beach

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 5; 7

Finish: 8; 2

Event: Circuit of the America’s

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 1, 1; 4, 4

Finish: 1, 17; 3, 2

Event: Detroit

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 1, 3; 4, 4

Finish: 1, 2; 3, 8

Event: Lime Rock

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 1, 1; 2, 3

Finish: 3, 1; 2, 2

Event: Toronto

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 1; 4

Finish: 1; 2

Event: Mid-Ohio

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim; Taylor

Qualify: 5, 3; 8, 5; 3, 8

Finish: 2, 11; 5, 4; 7, 12

Event: Sonoma

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 1; 2

Finish: 11;1

Event: Houston

Drivers: O’Connell; Pilgrim

Qualify: 2; 3

Finish: 1; 3


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