Connect with us



Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell checks into Sportscar365 following COTA…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

We put the all-new Cadillac ATS-V.R on the track with the competition for the first time this last weekend at the Circuit of the Americas.

After two years of development on the FIA GT3-spec ATS-V.R you are always a little anxious when debuting a new race car. You think you have gone through all of the variables, tested at ten-tenths and dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. Well we did.

Andy Pilgrim and I managed to qualify on the fifth row, just inside the top ten for the first race. We were happy with that result. There are some proven cars with fast drivers in the series this year, so it is going to be a don’t miss season for the fans.

I was able to get a good standing start, which was important as we lined up 49 cars on the front stretch for Saturday’s race. I was able to get a pretty clear run up to the wide first turn at the top of the “ski hill” at COTA.

Exiting Turn One, I was in fourth. If I was just a little more greedy and maybe a little reckless I may have been able to come out in second. But race craft and a few years of experience have taught me that the race starts in Turn One, but can also end there as well.

As the race went on I had a pretty good seat to watch new comer and ex-Corvette Racing teammate Olivier Beretta and Ryan Dalziel go at it for first.

The Lamborghini of Nick Catsburg, another fast guy, was also in the mix early, but got called in by our new race official and old friend Brian Till for going over the blend line. It didn’t bother me too much as I inherited third place, which is where I finished in the maiden outing for the Cadillac ATS-V.R.

The next day was a different story. We arrived at the circuit and went out in the warm-up on a very damp race track with light rain. As things turned out, just before the start of our race it really began to rain hard.

The wisdom of the officials had us do a rolling start and I was on the outside of the front row based upon my fast lap from Saturday’s race. I am still getting used to the new LF4.R twin-turbo engine and lost a couple of places at the start.

As the race went on I wanted to make sure that I kept it on the track and we made it to the checker. I was able to get another top ten, finishing in seventh, and came away from the weekend with some good data on the new car. We have some work to do on our wet set-up, but that is expected with a new car.

Every time I get a new race car I like to name them. This one I call Sugar-Sugar, because she is just going to keep getting sweeter.

The ATS-V.R ran really well all weekend. We had great reliability running every practice session and completing both races.

If you would have told me we were going to be on the podium in the first race with a new car I wouldn’t have believed you.

We took what was given and had a nice clean run. Everyone at Cadillac Racing did a great job to develop and get this new-car to the race track for the season opener.

The next race is the St. Pete street race in three weeks. That is going to be exciting.

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.

Click to comment

More in Commentary