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Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Now that the SprintX portion of the season is over, let me begin by congratulating Michael Cooper, Jordan Taylor and everyone at Cadillac Racing for executing perfectly and winning the championship. It was won not on speed, but by teamwork, timing and driver focus.

There was not one race in which we had the fastest lap, but consistency and lack of mistakes brought it home for the team. Job well done!

The first race Friday at the Circuit of The Americas was held as the sun was going down after a hot, hot day. With how BoP panned out, I’m sure we would have preferred the race being at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as we would have been closer over a long stint.

I recently asked the question, if you had two cars that could do the same lap time, but one was 200 pounds lighter, which would you race? Naturally the lighter one as it would, over the stint, be able to maintain a higher pace. Which is exactly what happened at COTA.

Ricky Taylor and I had a very good Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe for race one, but as the laps went on so did the tire degradation. I ran the second stint and more or less just followed Cooper in the No. 8 Cadillac while we ran in fourth and fifth position.

The leaders were long gone and it was shocking to see that at the end of the stint the Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes could do laps 1.5 seconds quicker than us. Frustrating to say the least.

Like at Utah, we had been prepping Ricky to do qualifying, getting him every set of stickers, and when it came time to deliver on Saturday morning for race two, the kid delivered an awesome balls-out lap to get our first pole of the year. Critical in that our only chance for a good finish was to be at the front.

We executed a great driver change and I left the pits just in front of the Ferrari, who had started the race on stickers.

Knowing the situation, I pushed hard, but after only a lap he stuck a move on me I wasn’t able to defend and then he sailed into the distance. I was able to hold gap to the guys behind me as Jordan was holding them up in third while we ran second.

Now things were going great as I watched the Ferrari get pretty much out of sight until the No. 16 Porsche parked on the inside of the front straight creating a full course caution.

Everyone bunched up, but unfortunately for me I had lapped cars between myself and the leading Ferrari, so the odds of taking a run at him were slim. At the restart, I lost some time getting around the lapped cars, while Jordan got mugged by the guys that were behind him.

Entering the esses I had Wolf Henzler in the No. 99 Porsche all over me, and it just became a situation of hitting my marks to bring the car home second. Which we did.

To be honest all things considered it was a win for us. Post-race I was blown away to see how fast the guys in the other cars could go at the end of their stint, and for race three we would wind up starting sixth based upon our fast race lap time.

Race 3 on Sunday, well it was ugly. At the start there was chaos with the yellow Ferrari losing it at the apex of the very fast turn two, guys avoiding, and sadly he collected Jordan in the No. 8 Cadillac.

In all the chaos, I found myself going sideways, and was so lucky to not get creamed by everyone else. I got going and rejoined what was by then a full course caution in 19th.

Cleaning up the mess from the accident took about 15 minutes, which I knew would help Ricky and I tire-wise. At the restart we went to work, got by a few decent cars in front of us and as the pit window opened I was behind the No. 9 McLaren.

Now at this stage of the race we were a good bit quicker than the guys in front of us, but getting by them would have used up way too much tire.

With that in mind the second the pit window opened we pitted. Ricky got in, and as the pit window closed we found ourselves in sixth. Granted by this time the Mercedes and Porsche were already a good 20-seconds in front of us.

Knowing what Ricky would have to work with tire wise, I knew that unless there was a caution that would be about where we finished. Long story short, tire wear came into play and we wound up finishing seventh.

Leaving Austin I felt pretty good about getting on the podium for Cadillac on Saturday. BoP was not in our favor and we executed well as a team to get that result. Sadly, the No. 8 Cadillac got wrecked pretty good.

I am glad that at Sonoma Raceway in two weeks we get back to what Pirelli World Challenge does best, 50-minute sprint races.

Top guys in top cars. Easy for the fans to follow and enjoy. I won both races there last year, and being winless so far this year, I plan on delivering.

Thanks as always for all of the support for Cadillac Racing. Stay hungry.

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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