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BOWMANVILLE, Ontario –Sometimes you’re good, sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes, no matter what you do, it’s not going to work out well.
Team Cadillac drivers Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim ran the gamut of those emotions on Saturday during Round 8 of the Pirelli World Challenge Series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
O’Connell, racing with the maximum amount of penalty weight at 224 pounds, brought his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe home second in the 50-minute race, capitalizing when Pilgrim’s No. 8 CTS-V Coupe had a left front tire go flat with less than 10 laps remaining.
Pilgrim got the car around the track and into pit lane, where the Cadillac Racing/Pratt Miller crew changed the offending Pirelli PZero and got back out to finish 10th, one lap down.
“I think I would have followed Andy home, but he had bad luck,” O’Connell said. “He had bad luck yesterday with the primary car, bad luck today with the flat tire. Otherwise he would have had me.”
Pilgrim said all was well until the final restart, after the second-running Volvo of Randy Pobst blew an engine and burst into flames on the back side of the 2.459-mile course. As he came down for the restart, he felt a vibration he could not diagnose.
“I had a really bad vibration on that last restart and I didn’t know what it was,” a frustrated Pilgrim said. “It happened all the way through the corner so I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was, and then I knew it was a flat tire. We had some kind of separation or something, and it just happened at a bad time.”
Pilgrim was keeping leader Mike Skeen in sight after O’Connell, who thought he had a flat tire as well, let him past just before the accident with Pobst on lap 10. Nine laps of clean-up and car removal later, the final restart of the day set in motion the drama that cost Pilgrim another podium finish at CTMP.
The car Pilgrim was driving was the backup CTS-V, after he had a mechanical issue in Turn 2 during practice in his primary machine. The resulting contact was too heavy to fix on-site, so his Team Cadillac crew spent 17 hours changing it over.
O’Connell soldiered on, keeping ahead of the Porsche duo of Steve Ott and Lawson Aschenbach over the final nine laps.
“We were good, and running third,” O’Connell recounted. “The Corvette was pulling away, the Volvo (Pobst) was pulling away, but some years you just get lucky. I thought I had a tire going down, but I might have gotten into some oil or something like that. I let Andy go by, because my car felt wrong. But then we had that long caution which brought everyone back together, and my car was good.”
O’Connell had a scare on the initial standing start, as he went side-by-side with Volvo’s Alex Figge into Turn 1. As the cars hit the apex, Figge’s car twitched sideways into O’Connell’s rocker panel, then did a 360-degree spin to the outside gravel trap.
“I thought I had given him enough room, but I came to find out later he had a problem with his car,” O’Connell said. “I was a little worried there.”
Despite Pilgrim’s struggles, it was a good day for Cadillac. Job one, staying ahead of Porsche for the manufacturer’s point lead, was accomplished, and Team Cadillac leads by 11, 63-52, with four races remaining in the season.
“[It was a] great day for Cadillac,” O’Connell said. “You win races and championships by being consistent and we are being consistent.
“We helped ourselves. We are doing a good job and not making mistakes. Other guys are. That’s what you need to do. I’ve been doing this long enough…won a lot of ALMS championships, and I really would like to add a World Challenge championship to those.”
Pilgrim, who already has a World Challenge Series title to his name, agreed.
“We were having a good day, we were ahead of the Porsches and that is the key to winning the manufacturer’s title, and then we had the tire problem. The car was good, too.”
As good a day as it was in the manufacturer’s race, the driver points are even better for Team Cadillac.
O’Connell’s point lead ballooned to 191 over Pilgrim, 1,011-820, and Pilgrim leads by 60 over third-place Lawson Aschenbach.
Skeen won the race in a Corvette, making it three straight in World Challenge competition north of the border. O’Connell was second over Porsche’s Steve Ott, with Porsche’s Aschenbach fourth and Tony Gaples fifth in another Corvette.
Action on Sunday begins at 9:55 a.m. EDT with qualifying for the GT Series, and Round 9 is scheduled to begin at 2:45 p.m. Round 9 will be streamed live.
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