Connect with us


O’CONNELL: Lime Rock Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Brian Cleary/

I wonder if I’m the only one getting tired of all the red flags. Beginning at Virginia International Raceway, I can only recall one Sprint X session that was not red flagged due to someone falling off and wrecking.

My personal feelings are that at this level, those days of falling off should be behind a driver. The track time, which is already limited, that gets lost, affects everyone’s plans.

In my case, once again, like at both Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and VIR, I went into qualifying without getting to drive the car for more than a lap or two prior to the session to set the grid.

As you can guess I’m more than frustrated at how things have gone so far with this formula. It’s not the series’ fault, but drivers who are behaving like it’s a video game – just my personal feelings.

Qualifying at Lime Rock was done in the wet, and looking back I over used my tires early in the run and wound up eighth.

My teammate Michael Cooper did a bit better lining up fifth and at the drop of the flag, the Porsche of Pat Long more or less said adios to the rest of the field and walked away from everyone.

There was a good train of us running from third to my eighth all running very close, but no opportunities to pass for anyone.

As the pit window opened and guys peeled into the pits, I was able to close the gap to Cooper who was running fourth and was able to enter pit lane right on his bumper which made for a cool pit stop for the Cadillac guys.

Both cars left pit lane together, but sadly after about five laps Ricky was taken out by an overly ambitious No. 14 Porsche who was competing in the Pro/Am class.

We were running fifth at the time, a lap up on the 14 car, which is another reason why I’m not a fan of this type of racing.

So a driver makes an ambitious move going too deep and into the back of Ricky Taylor on entry into Turn 1 and murdering my championship hopes. What could have been a good points day for us ended up being a lousy day with Ricky up against the tire barrier.

We went down five laps and if we got a single point I’d be surprised.

That really is a big hit for my championship hopes, but fortunately for Cadillac the No. 8 car of Cooper and Jordan Taylor ran trouble free to fourth and still lead the SprintX championship.

For Race 2, Jordan Taylor in the No. 8 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe made an incredibly good start and took the lead. But alas stupidity once again ensued as the No. 31 Ferrari tangled with the Porsche of Marc Lieb who had started on pole, turning the Porsche around on the main straight and sending it ping ponging against the barriers.

I’m guessing the Porsche guys were rather upset, that a car that had pretty much wrecked in every single session wound up taking them out.

Anyway, once the track went green again Jordan did a great job holding onto the lead until the pit stops. Sadly for them when Michael exited the pits the Audi had already gone by and Michael did a good job to bring the car home in second.

For Ricky and I in the No. 3 Cadillac, well it was just one of those days. A fair amount of time was lost in the first stint, Ricky getting run into and getting pushed off at the chicane.

When I got in I found the car to be better than the previous day and was told our laps were matching the leaders. Even though we only wound up seventh it was points.

On the good side of the weekend, my son Canaan had another great event in his Bondurant Techsport Chevy Sprint.

Getting pole and dominating the first race and then putting in a strong drive in race two. He started on pole, fell back to fifth and showed great patience and professionalism in his driving and was able to get the lead back and stretch it out to around six seconds getting his second win at Lime Rock and setting a track record in the process.

I’ve always told him that to be fast he just needs to burn fuel, and one of the great things about him being an instructor at Bondurant is that he gets the opportunity to work on his technique every day.

It worked for me and as his dad it’s pretty cool to see it working for him.

So next up the series heads back to one of our greatest tracks Road America. Thank God it’s back to Sprint racing.

One driver pushing as hard as he can for 50 minutes. Halfway through the season now and these past three events have been costly and painful. So it will be 100 percent head down, dig deep and stay hungry – more so than ever.

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.

1 Comment

More in Commentary