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O’CONNELL: Road America Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac

It happens often in racing, that some of your best drives, don’t result in a trophy. That was the case in race one at Road America.

Starting second, I had a great start and led at the turning point for one, with the Bentley to my inside. Leaving some room, there was contact that ran me wide on exit, and Adderly Fong led into Turn 3.

I pulled the over under move, got a better shot out of three and though pulling him slightly, once we got to fifth and sixth gear he gained some ground. I was a tic later on the brakes going into five, and again in front at the turning point.

Rather than go for the apex, I left him some room to work it, but unfortunately he needed more room and tagged me after the apex and turned me backwards. The entire field went by, I spun the car around, and went to work.

The drive from the back, well I’m not going to lie, it was motivated and fun.

My engineer John Lankes and the entire Cadillac team gave me a great handling Cadillac ATS-V.R, and we went to work.

Knowing that fast laps would be important for the next day’s starting position, it was frustrating to have to be working traffic, but we were still able to put down some strong laps.

Needless to say as we moved closer and closer to the front, passing was more difficult, and when I finally got to the Acura of Ryan Eversley and the McLaren of Brian Sellers, I could see the two of them were having an awesome race. Brian doing a masterful job of controlling pace, and protecting his position.

The racing was hard, and fun. I ran long in Turn 5 once and got into Ryan, for which I apologized after, and the next lap he took the position back again at Turn 6. It was good fun.

We eventually got by Brian, but in that battle I had lost too much ground and wound up eighth.

Still a great drive, and thanks to all the fans that came up to me after and the next day saying they appreciated watching it.

One can never lose sight of the fact, that the fans are an important part of what we do, and the fans at Road America are among the best.

To his credit, Adderly apologized for the contact after the race. I appreciated that and congratulated him on his first win. Good guy, no arrogance, and congrats to his Bentley team as well.

For Race 2, everyone again went into Turn 1 side-by-side, this time outside working better for the Porsche of Patrick Long, and Adderly slotted into second.

I was able to hold the outside and gain a position on my teammate Michael Cooper. As we made our way into the Carousel the caution flags flew for an incident in Turn 5.

On the restart, the Porsche and Bentley took off they seemed a bit stronger on the first lap or two, but again, there was a full course caution that led to a red flag for a big wreck with the GAINSCO Porsche of Jon Fogarty and the Acura of Peter Cox.

If you ever met those guys, well they are both stand-up dudes and I was glad to learn both were ok as it had to have been a big shunt.

So we all pulled into pit lane and parked for the red flag. Now things got a bit dicey while in pit lane all of a sudden I noticed the Bentley guys and some of the K-PAX guys pointing at the Porsche as one of their guys was taking tire pressures. Which, everyone knows, is illegal as you can’t touch a car during a red flag situation.

So I’m sitting there in my car waiting and thinking well this is going to be interesting as a rule is a rule. Anyway, nothing came of it and I’m guessing I’ll learn more about what transpired before we get to Mid-Ohio at the end of July.

So after 20 minutes we get going again, and at the green the Porsche and Bentley again gap me with only about 15 minutes left in the race.

As the laps went on, we slowly were getting back to them, but I would have needed another five or ten laps to make something happen. So when the flag waved, we wound up third. Which hey, I’ll take.

The SprintX races were costly to us and we really need to fight back.

Racing is a funny sport. There are times when everything goes your way, and times when it seems you can’t buy a break. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if you just go back to doing what you always do, the wins and the results will come.

With the season over half way over now, it would seem that currently the Porsche is the dominant car, having been the only brand to be at the front for every event.

Take out the incidents they were involved in during the SprintX rounds and they would be crushing everyone in points.

Fortunately for my teammate Michael Cooper, the SprintX races with he and Jordan Taylor were very positive points-wise, and he still is leading the overall championship.

So as a team, moving on to Mid-Ohio, we will continue to move forward as the cohesive unit that is Cadillac Racing. We will execute, we will optimize, and we will stay 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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