- O’Connell and Pilgrim poised for repeat
DETROIT – Team Cadillac is ready to carry forward its championship-winning effort from 2012 into the new season of the Pirelli World Challenge Series.
Johnny O’Connell, 2012 Pirelli World Challenge GT Driver’s Champion, and Andy Pilgrim, runner-up in GT points, are poised to keep the Cadillac CTS-V Coupes at the front of the World Challenge field in 2013.
Having won four races in 2012, the first at the season opening St. Petersburg Grand Prix, No. 2 in the streets of Long Beach and the double race win on the Belle Isle Circuit in Detroit, O’Connell enjoyed an off season filled with work and family.
“It was a long off season to say the least,” O’Connell said. “We only did two days of testing, which were at Sears Point. It rained both days, but we were able to still achieve a lot. Other than that, I spent a lot of time in Phoenix as vice president of the Bondurant School and, of course, I enjoyed all the time I could with my kids.”
O’Connell said he is looking forward to the two new circuits on the schedule.
“Of course everyone seems to love COTA (Circuit of the America’s), and I’m hopeful that the circuit suits our CTS-V Coupes well. I’ve actually won in Houston when I was driving the Corvette in the ALMS (American Le Mans Series). So I’m looking forward to trying to achieve the same with the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe.”
O’Connell is already feeling the pressure to repeat as GT champion.
“When I look back at how we won the championship, it was never due to speed. We won it by being consistent and staying out of trouble. Between Andy and me, we only had one fast lap, which lead to us getting the pole at Detroit.”
The Flowery Branch, Ga., resident knows 2013 will be a challenge.
“With new cars coming in like the Mercedes, as well as better prepared Audi R8s, we will have to be just as smart and consistent in order to be a factor.”
Cadillac is ready to carry forward its championship-winning effort from 2012 into the new season of the Pirelli World Challenge Series (Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing Photo).
Pilgrim has been busy in the off season working on the next installment of his Driving Zone videos that provide teachers with the crucial information that all new drivers need to help them survive the critical early years of driving.
“I have been editing my new DVD which is aimed at parents and how they can better prepare their children for driving by not driving distracted while the kids are in the car as they grow up,” Pilgrim said. “It’s a monster project and has been taking all my time.”
Pilgrim is also looking forward to taking his CTS-V around the new COTA circuit in Austin, Texas.
“I love the new COTA track, (and) feel quite sad we’re not running the full circuit having driven it but I’m sure it will be a blast anyway.”
Like the crucial steps in teaching proper driving technique, the Boca Raton, Fla., resident is applying those to the upcoming season.
“My expectations for this season are realistic. We had a landmark season in 2012 taking it all as a team and one-two for drivers,” Pilgrim said. “I think race by race and corner by corner we’ll see how it shakes out. As long as we are competitive, I know we’ll be up front and be in with a chance and that’s all we can ask for.
“The goal will be to repeat 2012 and that feels pretty good being able to say that. Having done it once, we feel we can do it again.”
The competition from newcomers to the series, as well those returning with reported improvements to their cars, has Pilgrim’s attention.
“At this point it seems to be rumor and bigger rumor. We’ve heard stories about the Audi, Aston Martin, Mercedes and BMW teams. If all of the rumors are true, I am excited about the higher level of competition that we will see this season,” he said.
“I’ll see who and what actually shows up and how we stack up before losing any sleep. If all these great teams and manufacturers come, and we have a level playing field, then we’ll have competition and depth like we haven’t seen since 2005. I can’t wait to find out.”
John Kraemer, V-Series Racing marketing manager, has the team focused on the track and another team just as committed on the activation side.
“We have the target firmly planted on our rear bumper heading into the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge Series,” Kraemer said. “The team at Pratt & Miller has worked all off season to keep the CTS-V Coupes at the front. We will have fresh competitors from Germany, but we are equal to the task of repeating. Off the track, Team Cadillac has developed a following based upon providing a great track experience.”
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 first race of the World Challenge Series 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 on Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m. EDT. Live streaming can be viewed on race day at www.world-challengeTV.com.