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Johnny O’Connell checks into Sportscar365 after PWC COTA win…

Photo: Brian Cleary/

Photo: Brian Cleary/

Just one year ago we debuted the Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe. We had a great first race with the car then, finishing third, and I was confident that if we executed, this year we could win. Man it was nice ticking off that first one of the season.

At the start of the first race I entered Turn 1 in third on the inside, and got completely freight trained by guys running an outside line.

I went from third to eighth in the blink of an eye and lost some track positions and a little gap to the leaders. I had to fight my way back.

Once in fifth, I was able to close the gap to them, but it took until the last lap, so I never got an opportunity to improve any more positions. The cars and competition this season is unreal. Everyone is so close.

In the second race I did everything the same entering Turn 1, but this time no freight train on the outside and I exited Turn 1 in third, which is where I started. Like race one the officials immediately threw a full course caution.

This was a pivotal moment for my race. I saw that Pat Long was out. Since he won the first race and was also the last one to win the Pirelli World Challenge Series championship five years ago before my run of four, to say the least he is a contender.

I would never wish ill will on a fellow competitor, especially Pat, as he’s a great guy, I always want to beat them heads up on the race track. That stated I knew at this point it was a championship opportunity to make up some points as I go for a fifth straight PWC championship.

When the green flag flew for the restart I was sizing up Bryan Heitkotter in the Nissan. He did a great job to start from pole and lead the race.

I passed him on lap 13 and then things got interesting behind me. There was some pushing and shoving with my teammate Michael Cooper and the McLaren and Bentley.

I’ll tell you, the PWC Officials Brian Till and Dorsey Schroeder were working overtime in the second race penalizing drivers. The activity behind just helped me to focus on hitting my marks and conserving my tires.

A great way to finish the weekend with a win and my new teammate coming in second.

I have to say Michael is fast. I am looking forward to having him push me all season and both of us making the other that much better and Cadillac Racing that much stronger.

No time to celebrate too much as we will hit the track in St. Petersburg, Fla. in two days.

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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