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O’CONNELL: Road America Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column following Road America…

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

I’ve always said that racing is ninth grade math, with drivers using geometry and playing connect the dots, engineers and mechanics using computers and countless tools to measure everything precisely.

Measurements to the millimeter, aerodynamics even more precise… It’s all numbers. As are the amount of hours a team puts into preparing a car.

For a driver in Pirelli World Challenge, a race weekend consists of usually two 50-minute races, with about an hour of practice and test time.

Throw in a few appearances as well as studying data and total time for a driver on a race weekend might be ten hours. The team, well it’s a whole lot more.

Cadillac Racing is a team that is almost always the first to arrive to the circuit as well as the last to leave.

Twelve to 14 plus-hour days are the norm. They set everything up, then when the weekend is over tear everything down. In between they bust their tails to provide the best race car.

I’m proud that THEIR car has my name on it, but it really is their car.

This past weekend we had an electrical issue in race one that gave us a big misfire. A car that was handling perfect, and capable of reaching the podium, quickly fell down the order.

During the race, we cycled through different things to try and fix it, but with no luck. You’ve heard the song by the “Police, Ghost in the Machine;” we had one last weekend.

Post-race, the team stayed up late replacing about everything possible. They tried to replicate what happened on the track, sorted through hours of data, but sometimes these things are hard to find.

So when Race 2 started, and we made a good start, I was hopeful. The car handled just how I needed it to, but then it became apparent the problem still existed, the ghost was still in my machine, and we again had a challenging race trying to sort out what was going on.

I admit to being frustrated. Angry. But so was all of the Cadillac Racing team. It was the situation. Our guys work hard. So when something goes wrong, it’s not my championship that suffers, it’s OUR championship that suffers.

Racing is a team sport. Cadillac Racing comes to the track with the single goal of winning. It doesn’t always happen, but that is our mindset.

The driver is just the quarterback. I have complete faith and trust in my guys. I know that if I fall off and hurt the car, they are never angry at me. They would stay late and get her back together.

So when something like what happened to us at Road America occurs, I have their back. Win as a team, lose as a team. Cadillac Racing has accomplished great things and I know we have tons more to prove.

So thanks to Cadillac Racing. One of the greatest things is overcoming adversity, and we will. Stay hungry.

On to Mid-Ohio in four weeks.

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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