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Team Cadillac Finishes First, Third in Cadillac V-Series Challenge Race at Belle Isle in Detroit
O’Connell Wins, Pilgrim Third in Round 6 of Pirelli World Challenge Series
DETROIT – In the shadow of Cadillac’s headquarters, Johnny O’Connell delivered a homecoming victory for Team Cadillac in the Cadillac V-Series Challenge on Saturday at Belle Isle.
O’Connell led all 22 laps in his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and earned his second victory of the 2012 season in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Series, and teammate Andy Pilgrim wound up third in his No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe.
The race itself started with a bang, as polesitter Randy Pobst’s Volvo suffered a mechanical problem on the standing start. O’Connell leaped away into the lead, while Pilgrim and eventual runner-up Lawson Aschenbach struggled to miss the stationary vehicle.
Aschenbach got through first and took off after O’Connell, with Pilgrim sliding into third.
Nearly the entire field missed Pobst’s car, which had broken a driveshaft, but the GTS cars of Roger Miller and Bill Ziegler did not. The impact sent the Volvo left to the wall, where it was hit by rookie Robert Stout.
Pobst and the other three drivers emerged unhurt, but the accident required significant cleanup. The race finally went green on lap 12.
O’Connell immediately started putting distance on Aschenbach over the next five laps until another crash on lap 17 put the field back under yellow.
The cleanup for that accident put the race over the 50-minute time limit, and O’Connell took the white and checkered flags while under the caution.
“When you’re racing in front of headquarters, you want to do well,” O’Connell said. “This was a race that in many respects was won in qualifying. I really put in one of my better laps this morning in qualifying and that allowed us to get on the front row.”
On the initial standing start, O’Connell launched well and concentrated on the first turn, but noticed that Pobst hadn’t moved.
“Out of my peripheral vision, I saw that Randy didn’t go, and I knew that was a bad thing for him,” he said. “When I got to Turn 2, I took my first good look around. Lawson was the only one there.”
That was the race, for all intents and purposes. Pilgrim kept the top two cars honest, and the top three pulled away by about eight seconds in the five laps of green-flag racing they managed before the second yellow flag ended the day.
It’s a bonus for O’Connell for tomorrow’s 50-minute race as well. He set the fastest lap of the day on Saturday, earning the pole for Sunday’s race. Pilgrim will start third behind Aschenbach’s Porsche.
It was an interesting start for Pilgrim, as he was directly behind Pobst when the latter’s car broke on the start.
“I was lucky to miss Randy,” he said. “On the standing start, when somebody stalls, you’re just thankful to get by. Lawson got a great start, and I’m really glad I didn’t hit Lawson, because he went right and I went left. We could have come together right in the middle and that would have been really bad.”
Pilgrim said that the lack of green-flag racing was a shame, and that the Detroit crowd would see better action from the Pirelli World Challenge Series on Sunday.
“It’s a shame for the fans, and we will do better,” he vowed. “We have a great racing series, and I hope they stick with us and we’ll give them a much better show tomorrow.”
For Cadillac fans, and the hundreds of employees, family and friends who attended the Cadillac V-Series Challenge, it was a pretty good show all around, with the victory and a double podium.
The victory, Cadillac’s third in six races so far this year, gave Cadillac a six-point lead over Porsche in the Manufacturer’s points, and O’Connell stretched his driver points lead to 72, 735-663, over his teammate Pilgrim.
After O’Connell, Aschenbach and Pilgrim came the Volvo of Alex Figge and Steve Ott’s Porsche in the top five. David Welch, James Sofronas, Tomy Drissi, Madison Snow and Anders Hainer rounded out the top 10. All but Hainer (Audi) among the second five were Porsche drivers.
Round 7 of the Pirelli World Challenge Series will take place Sunday at 12:05 p.m. on the 2.080-mile Belle Isle street course. Both races will be streamed live and will be broadcast on NBC Sports, Saturday, July 7 at 5-7 p.m. EDT.
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