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O’CONNELL: Barber Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column following Barber…

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Sixty-minutes. Had our races been 60-minutes this past weekend I think I might have been able to get the job done. Sadly for me, Pirelli World Challenge races are 50 minutes and in both races I just ran out of time.

Qualifying is always one of my favorite parts of the weekend. This past weekend at Barber we were just missing a little bit and I wound up fourth.

My teammate Michael Cooper was hooked up and was able to get the pole. Great job by him to earn important manufacturer points for Cadillac.

As I reflect on the weekend, it was on Thursday that we made our mistake. There is a huge benefit to having two fast drivers and that is the opportunity to take set-ups in different directions.

We didn’t get the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe as good as we needed for the pole. Big congrats to the crew for getting the No. 8 Cadillac perfect.

In race one, Alvaro Parente in the McLaren got the jump and led going into Turn 1. Based on what I felt the first laps in the car, I chose to work on saving my tires so that I might be able to attack at the end.

This was made easier by the fact that JD Davison in the Nissan was holding up some very strong cars like Patrick Long’s Porsche and the Audi of Kyle Marcelli who was also very strong.

It was clear that the McLaren was a fast car, but Michael was hooked up as well and really made Parente work.

As we got to the final five minutes their tires finally began going off and I was able to close in on them both and get to the back of Michael, but my Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe needed another 10-minutes.

Race 2 was similar. I started third, got a great jump and was moving to the inside of Parente as we approached Turn 1.

He moved over to take my line away, which opened up the outside for Michael who took advantage and led going into Turn 2. Once again, I chose to save my tires with the hope that towards the end we would have more car left.

I got a little lucky again when Patrick Long was held up, this time by his teammate. This allowed me to really focus on being smooth and saving the Cadillac for the end.

The thing is, once Patrick got clear of his teammate on lap 12, he was the fastest car on the track for the rest of the race, which made me push a little harder and use up more tires.

Once again, with two laps to go I got close to Parente who was all over Michael. And of course Patrick Long had closed up on me. So after 36 green flag laps, you had three manufacturers and four drivers finish within 2.171 seconds of each other.

Michael drove a strong race to get his first win and big congratulations to him. Cadillac scored more manufacturer points and that’s really what is most important.

When you look at times from the races, not just fast laps, but total lap averages everyone is very close. It really shows that they’ve done a great job with the BoP this season.

The team that works the hardest, the car that is set-up the best, and that driver that executes is the one that is going to win.

Which means that fans of Pirelli World Challenge will have lots to be watching for this season. We still have lots of racing ahead of us and needless to say I’m enjoying the close competition.

Dare greatly is a Cadillac slogan. There’s a very good chance this season that he who dares the most will reap the most rewards.

Mosport, sorry Ron Fellows, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is our next event, one of my favorite circuits in North America. Very fast and flowing, a place I’ve had amazing fortunes in the past. Needless to say I’m looking forward to it in three weeks.

Johnny O'Connell (@JohnnyOConnell1) is a three-time American Le Mans Series champion and four-time class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving for Team Cadillac in the Pirelli World Challenge.

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