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O’CONNELL: Road America Debrief

Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column following Rd. America…

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Road America is one of the great natural terrain road courses left in North America and one every racing driver looks forward to running.

It’s a circuit that drivers from all around the world love competing at due to its combination of fast and slow corners, long straights and challenging breaking zones and four miles in length.

Coming into this weekend we feared that the downforce that the FIA GT3 specification cars can generate would really be apparent in the fast sweeping turns, especially through the Carousel that leads onto the long back straight and we were right.

In the last session prior to qualifying our Cadillac CTS.V.Rs we were running 10th and 11th on the time sheets, and things were looking bleak.

For me being an Irishman, I’ve always been a bit of a believer in luck, and upon getting to the circuit for qualifying we were greeted with heavy storms. This turned out to be great luck. Qualifying was canceled and we were granted pole based on championship points. If not this gift I feel we most likely would have qualified seventh or eighth.

Bad luck struck for me when a new procedure set by the SCCA officials didn’t go as planned. I got mixed signals from the starting lights and sign board and the heat generated from sitting so long caused my car to creep.

As a result of moving on the grid I was penalized for jumping the start and had to serve a drive through penalty costing me the lead on lap three. I accepted the penalty and was in full recovery mode. I was able to make up ten positions by the time the checker flew for a seventh place finish.

The saving grace was that my chief protagonist for the points lead, Anthony Lazzaro in his Ferrari had problems too.

For the second race I started from the second row in fourth. This time I had a great Cadillac start. I went from fourth place to second by the exit of Turn Three and then took the lead with a pass around the outside going through Turn Five.

I need to give credit to my engineer John Lankes, I had the best car I’ve had under me all year, and at a track where I needed it.

Unfortunately there was a big shunt in the race that involved Alex Figge in his McLaren and Anthony Lazarro’s Ferrari. You hate it anytime there is a big wreck and I am glad to know that Alex is going to be ok.

On the restart Mike Skeen in the Audi made an aggressive move on me going into Turn Eight. He forced me wide on the exit which allowed my teammate Andy to also get by.

From that point on Mike checked out. I stayed on Andy and had the new Bentley with Butch Leitzinger driving chewing on my bumper the rest of the way home.

We were able to salvage some good points and new head to Toronto for some more street racing July 18-20

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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