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DETROIT, Mich., (Mar. 20, 2013) -Team Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim are looking for a fast start to the Pirelli World Challenge Series at the season opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg running this weekend March 22-24.
The reigning World Challenge GT driver and manufacturer champions were able to get a strong start in 2012 at St. Pete with a race win and a podium by O’Connell, complimented by a third-place finish by Andy Pilgrim.
“I think we are ready to do well in qualifying again as a team at St. Peter,” Pilgrim said. “We have been slowed down over the winter by the SCCA so we need to see how we stack up now. The restrictor change is really the only variable, but we are ready to go.”
Andy PilgrimPilgrim has a fondness for street racing and likes the St. Pete layout.
“I love street racing and St. Pete is a great track for it. I am a huge fan of fast sweepers and St. Pete has a few really good ones, so even if you’re not in heavy traffic this place will get your attention three or four times a lap. I especially like the fast chicane back onto the airport runway area, it’s a great transition.”
A strong start to the season is essential as every race is a valuable points paying event.
“Every race is critical in this series. One bad race can effectively end your season as far as the Championship. Every year the driver who wins it had the most consistent high place finishes. A DNF or bad finish is not what any of us want. We have to finish towards the front in every race, starting at St. Pete.”
Reigning World Challenge GT driver champion, O’Connell knows a fast start is crucial, but the competition has improved for 2013.
“Last year the team came out of the box fast with top qualifying positions and a win at St. Pete,” O’Connell said. “It’s going to be very hard to repeat that effort. We really don’t know the strengths of our competition and we weren’t the fastest there last year. We got a bit lucky with traffic and I can only hope the same happens this year.”
Johnny O’ConnellLike Pilgrim, O’Connell, 2012 drivers champion, is a big fan of racing through the city streets.
“I’ve always loved street racing and the precision needed to excel on them. Having won at St. Pete before allows me to go into the event knowing what I need to do. I like the entire circuit, but if there is a place that is challenging – it’s braking for Turn One. There is a lot of paint on the surface, and the car doesn’t like that.”
Last year’s race one winner wants to get out of the box again fast in 2013.
“It’s very important to get a good first double race weekend start to the season,” he said. “The most important thing is for us to get good finishes, and then we will see what weaknesses we need to address before Long Beach. We’re entering St. Pete with no preseason testing, so I expect it to be a challenge.”
John Kraemer, V-Series Racing marketing manager, is ready to get the Cadillac CTS-V Coupes back on the track this weekend.
“It has been a long off season,” Kraemer said. “We are ready to hit the track and start the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season. We had a dream start to the year in St. Pete in 2012, which will be hard to duplicate. Johnny and Andy are ready to go and the team at Pratt Miller has the rig pointed toward Florida. We have a full complement of V-Series fans coming to be a part of the action and kick off the season.”
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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