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O’CONNELL: Long Beach Debrief

Johnny O’Connell on last weekend’s PWC round at Long Beach…

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Long Beach, is our equivalent to the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s a race you get fired up and focused to drive because of its history and the great names who have won there since 1975. It demands perfection.

In 2013, I was behind the Volvo of Alex Figge when he went into Turn 1 and his brake disc rotor exploded.

I took over the lead and while behind the pace car with half a lap to go, my engine overheated and I had to stop.

We later found a chunk of his rotor lodged in our radiator. In 2014 we won, and in 2015 we got taken out while leading.

This year, I thought we had it. My Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe was strong. I was aggressive on restarts, and we crossed the finish line first after falling back to fourth at the start.

But the final results will show us finishing second. In post-race scrutineering, it was found that during the race, we had two moments that lasted less than the blink of an eye where our turbo over boosted.

Both of these occurred in traction control situations, where my throttle movement, lifting and then going back to throttle to get out of traction control, created a situation the computer could not handle.

There was absolutely no speed advantage or gain whatsoever. Zero. Yet rules are rules, and a ten second penalty was assessed to us post-race that put us back to second.

As for the race itself, it started well for us. I had a good run at the drop of the green and I had a slight advantage going into Turn 1.

I left room for the Alvaro Parente’s McLaren, but he was unable to get his car turned and ran me into the tires on the exit.

That allowed Patrick Long and Colin Thompson to pass and I had some damage to the front of my Cadillac. It put us back in fourth when the yellow came out a half lap later.

Within the next two restarts, we were able to regain the lead, and then ran the rest of the race mistake free, while under very hard pressure from the Alvaro. He is a really nice guy and super-fast factory driver.

Finishing third was Patrick Long for Porsche, another world class driver. I think the podium truly represented the level of talent that is competing in the Pirelli World Challenge series this year.

Personally that win meant a lot. It would have been my 60th driving for General Motors, and getting a congratulations text from Jim Campbell, GM Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, made me feel pretty darn good.

I was actually watching the IndyCar race with Parente and my son when I found out that we were likely to get put back to second. He was pretty cool about it, even though it represented his first win.

I guess at Barber in a few days we’ll swap out trophies and then I’ll put my head down and try to get number 60 again in Alabama.

Still hungry and staying that way.

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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