August 28, 2011

Team Cadillac Just Misses Double Podium in First Race at Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma

A logjam at the start and some tough traffic luck on the 2.2-mile layout at Infineon Raceway cost both Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim in Saturday’s ninth round of the Pirelli World Challenge.

“They just got a better jump,” O’Connell said of the start, where both eventual race winner Patrick Long and third-starting Randy Pobst got past him. “Their computers worked better than ours did for the first time this year. I felt we’ve had great starts every single race, but this is the first time the 45 car (Long) pulled me on the start.”

Trailing Pobst and Long, O’Connell kept both in his sights as Pilgrim launched well and hung out on O’Connell’s back bumper. Pobst left the lead battle with mechanical problems on the fourth lap, and it was a two-car Cadillac CTS-V tag-team on Long after that.

It stayed that way until lap 18, when the leaders were mired deep in traffic among a gaggle of GTS machines waging their own battle for position.

“It was very unfortunate,” Pilgrim said. “It was four Mustangs, running so hard, and they weren’t looking in their mirrors, I guess. I knew it was going to be tough to get through, and I was about to get pushed off the track. I had to back off and as I did, I saw Mike Skeen slide past on the inside.

“It’s very disappointing not to get a podium, but actually, it was a really good race. That lap just cost me three or four seconds, and it was terrible.”

Pilgrim caught back up to Skeen’s bumper on several occasions over the final nine laps, but had to fend off the closing Porsche of Dino Crescentini in the final two to preserve fourth.

Over the final 10 laps or so, through the ebb and flow of traffic, O’Connell kept Long on a string, waiting for the moment he could pounce. It didn’t come.

“I was struggling, fighting the rear of the car from the third lap on,” O’Connell said. “I kept hoping that he would have tires, but he didn’t. Then I was hoping he would hit traffic and he didn’t, and then I was hoping I could hang on.

“All things considered, as difficult a race car as it was, second is a good result. It is what it is and we’ll get it better for tomorrow.”

Behind Long and O’Connell came Skeen and Pilgrim, with Crescentini in fifth. James Sofronas, Tomy Drissi, David Welch, Tony Gaples and Jeff Courtney rounded out the top 10 finishers.

O’Connell, by virtue of winning the pole (worth 15 points) and finishing second, claimed second spot in the driver point standings, 124 behind Long. Pilgrim stayed fifth, opening ground on Tony Gaples for the spot.

. In the manufacturer’s chase, Porsche leads with 64 points and Cadillac is second with 38.

The next round for the Pirelli World Challenge is Sunday, Aug. 28 at Infineon Raceway.

| Cadillac