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O’CONNELL: Long Beach Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac

I’ve been racing for a while now, and one thing I’ve learned is that everyone, during the course of a season, will have a bad weekend.

To all of my friends and fans, to those fans of Cadillac of southern California, I’m sorry Long Beach was ours.

What started out looking like it might be a decent weekend, ended up being one to forget. But naturally we will remember and use it as motivation for the rest of the season.

As a point of reference, we knew it would be a challenge based on the fact that versus last year when we had a great race with the McLaren, we had been reduced on power, whereas the McLaren was the same, and the Porsche was lighter by 88 pounds and also got some restrictor help.

Still on Friday, in the 50 some odd minutes we had before qualifying we were pretty decent and wound up fifth quick, but everyone was reasonably close.

For qualifying we made a slight adjustment, the car felt decent, and whereas I thought I would be winding up around the sixth row based on feel, seems everyone else really stepped up a lot and we wound up 12th.

Disappointed to say the least, as with how things are now, qualifying is the most important part of the weekend, as passing these days with all of the technology on the cars, the ABS, paddle shifting and the traction control, well it’s much more rare for a driver to make a mistake that allows a pass.

As far as the race goes, well our poor result is all on me. Starting 12th I knew I would have to be aggressive at the start. Going into Turn 1 I took the outside and gained about four spots.

As I was being run wide at the exit of one by Alec Udell, who was very quick this weekend, I had to breathe the car to get in line and at that time my friend Pierre Kaffer started coming up my side on drivers left.

I took a quick glance at him, which was the exact moment Alec got on the brakes and I got into the back of him.

It’s been about four years since I got into the back of anyone, and of course I felt stupid, but the car still felt good. With bits of carbon flying off the car I was able to stay close to him.

One interesting part of the race was when we had a flood on the back straight due to a fire hydrant breaking, and the officials did a great job at red flagging things, cleaning up the mess and then getting us going again.

At the restart we were still good, I was able to get close to Udell a few times, but never close enough to make a legitimate move.

Even with a good exit out of the corners I would still lose out to him on acceleration. Being the heaviest car, currently running in the series, is definitely not an advantage.

As far as the end of the race, well I’d like to lie and say it was something with the car, but my integrity is important to me, and in that it gives credibility to all I share with you.

After a great dice with both Alec and Jon Fogarty, I messed up and left my braking a tick late going into one and ended in the tires.

I’m for sure going to lose a lot of sleep over that as it cost me and the team dearly in the championship.

Needless to say not a great weekend for us as my teammate Michael Cooper also had a hard time keeping pace, both of us lapping almost a second slower than the McLaren and Porsche at the front, heck last year Michael got fastest race lap.

So as we move forward, we try to forget, but will definitely remember.

We move forward as a team like we always do at Cadillac Racing. Each guy just as important as the other.

Each guy focused on one goal. Winning. Of course we stay hungry. It’s what we do.

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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