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O’CONNELL: Sonoma Debrief

Johnny O’Connell files his latest Sportscar365 column after his Sonoma sweep…

Photo: Cadillac Racing

Photo: Cadillac Racing

Back when I drove for Corvette, I’m pretty sure that we won every time we raced at Sonoma. Granted it was on a different, and in my mind much better configuration, but we always had good luck in wine country.

With Cadillac however, I just haven’t been able to close one out, and it was nice to get the job done there this past weekend.

To be honest, early in the week I wasn’t very optimistic as the layout is one that should favor rear and mid-engine cars. The engineers at Cadillac, however, have really been burning up the lap tops and gave both Michael and I really good cars.

We qualified third and fourth and for race one I was hopeful that if I could manage tire wear I might have a shot.

At the start, Austin Cindric took the lead in his McLaren and I was able to slot in behind him as Alvaro Parente had a moment in the middle of Turn 1.

From that point on it was Austin and I digging deep each lap. The gap holding for the most part at less than a second. I don’t know if I’ve ever been softer with a throttle, but that certainly was key to saving the rear tires.

As the run went on, I was able to see where we were strong versus Austin. On the last lap I was able to make a move to pass him on the entry into Turn 7.

We were both at that stage completely slipping and sliding, and once I exited the corner I knew it would be hard for him to challenge back. I’ve been passed on the last lap, and know what a bad feeling it is, but it needs to be pointed out what a great job Austin did to lead. The kid can drive and each event he shows up stronger.

For Race 2, I again started third, and executed well at the start being able to move inside Austin who was on pole to lead into Turn 2.

I briefly glanced behind me on the exit to see what was going on, but didn’t check again until the exit of the carousel when I could see I had a good gap.

This all because there was some chaos behind me in that turn, and as I came through the exit of the carousel on lap 2, there were bits of body work on the circuit which is all I needed to know about what had happened.

From that point on, it became a challenge to really look after my tires, driving them at the limit and not sliding them. Alvaro was behind me about three-seconds, we slowly opened that up during the course of the race and finally took the win.

It felt good to win again and to sweep the weekend for Cadillac. It’s been since Long Beach that I’ve won, and that one was taken away for being over boost by less than the blink of an eye over a 50-minute race.

So I can officially now count wins 60 and 61 driving for GM. Surround yourself with good people and good things happen. I’m surrounded by the best.

We close out the season in a few weeks at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in three weeks. Sitting third in points there is a remote chance to still win the championship.

It’s guaranteed that all I will be thinking about is the final 50-minute race of the season. As always, thanks for supporting Cadillac Racing.

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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