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O’CONNELL: Miller Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: John Machaqueiro/Cadillac

Photo: John Machaqueiro/Cadillac

Whenever I see Arie Luyendyk, one of the things he always tells me is that to him, I’m one of the smartest guys he knows, for getting out of single seaters and getting into sports cars.

As I write this, I know the entire motorsport community has their thoughts and prayers with the family of Justin Wilson. I know that everyone at Cadillac Racing and Pirelli World Challenge have him in our minds, our hearts, and prayers.

Going into Miller I was hopeful that the circuit would suit our new ATS-V.R. It’s smooth, and has some faster corners that I felt we would be good through. This proved to be the case.

We rolled off the trailer decent, but this weekend the engineers made all of the right moves. The car for qualifying was very difficult to drive, razors edge, but good enough to throw down one very good lap to get the pole.

At the start of the first race, I knew that I was going to have my hands full. JD Davidson has been on a roll lately, the Nissans are really showing how strong they are, and I knew he would be pushing me hard the entire race. Which he did. A new PWC rule is that we do rolling starts for the first race on double race weekends and our traditional standing starts on Sunday.

At the start I was lucky to get a small gap to him in the first few laps, and then it was drive every lap as if it was qualifying. I could look in my mirror and see that he was sliding and pushing every bit as hard as I was.

When we finally got to traffic and I was a bit luckier than he was on Saturday. Our fast laps were so close, I think I managed to beat him to pole by only a hundredth or so to secure pole for race two.

For race two, we got a good standing start and I was able to lead into Turn One. My car was exceptional the first few laps, but then became more and more difficult to drive.

Again, I spent the race with JD pushing me the entire time, knowing one slight mistake would be all that he needed to close a very small gap. If the race had gone another ten minutes I’m not certain I would have been able to hold him off as I feel his car was probably working better than ours the last ten minutes of the race.

Again, it was run every lap as if it was qualifying, make no mistakes and like Mosport, we were able to pull off the double race wins on the weekend.

In closing, it needs to be pointed out what a great event Pirelli World Challenge put on at Miller. The number of serious racing fans that showed up, spoke of how much they enjoy watching our races, the length of lines for the autograph session, says all you need to know about the direction things are moving.

The fans of our sport are special, and I’m confident that like me, their thoughts will be first with Justin.

Sonoma is next weekend. I am just about 10 points out of the GT championship lead with three races left. I know that everyone at Cadillac Racing is 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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