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O’CONNELL: Sonoma Debrief

Johnny O’Connell checks into Sportscar365 after Sonoma weekend…

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Talk about a roller coaster. From the highs of Miller where I won both races from the pole, to the lows of Sonoma where I finished fifth and eighth. Wow!

There was a time I really enjoyed racing at Sonoma, but that was back when it was called Sears Point.  The track was fast and had great rhythm. The circuit that we run on now is miserable, with compromises made for NASCAR and IndyCar.

To me it lacks rhythm and flow, and the chicane just invites drivers to pull dirt onto the race track. I think it’s the only circuit this season where we never got to top gear.

The layout also most certainly favors rear and mid-engine cars to our Cadillac.  I knew before ever doing a lap it would suit the Porsche and McLaren, and they proved me correct.

I have to say I’m very proud of everyone at Cadillac Racing for the effort that was put in last weekend. Both Andy Pilgrim and I had reasonable qualifying laps, but the thing with sticker tires is that you can get a few good laps in before the true balance of performance shows in your car.  I figured that we would struggle in our races over a long run and that proved to be the case.

In race one I had a good dice going with Olivier Beretta in his Ferrari, but as the run went on we just lost more traction than they did and were unable to do much but hold on the entire race and try to manage our tires as best we could.

I wound up fifth and my teammate Andy was sixth in the race. Sadly though our times were only good enough to place us eighth and ninth for the start of race two.

For race two I personally struggled big time with the handling of my car. At the start Mike Skeen in his Audi and Andy had slight contact that moved Mike into a spin and in avoiding him I lost my front dive planes, a critical piece of aero for the Cadillac ATS-V.R.

As the race progressed, each lap became more difficult, the tire degradation was very bad and I was for the majority of the race just holding on.  To say it was frustrating was an understatement. Andy, however, had a very good car, kept the Ferrari under pressure, but never got the opportunity to get by.

The results of the race, saw Andy fifth, I was eighth, with the Ferrari finishing third. This means we go to the final race with only a slight 26-point lead in the GT driver’s championship.

In closing, congratulations to Porsche on winning the Manufacturer’s Championship.  They were strong, fast and consistent all season.

For us, well as we go to the final race, I know that Cadillac Racing will execute to the highest level.

We will dig deep and 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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