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GM, O’Connell End Relationship; “95 Percent Retired”

Johnny O’Connell’s contract with GM set to lapse; not ruling out one-off endurance drives…

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Johnny O’Connell’s nearly 20-year relationship with GM will come to a close at the end of the year, with the former Corvette Racing and Cadillac driver’s contract not having been renewed for 2020.

The four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner has been most recently serving as a Cadillac ambassador and test driver for following the end of its Pirelli World Challenge program in 2017.

O’Connell claimed four PWC championships through his time with the manufacturer. 

“At least racing with them, I made it to 55 as a factory driver, which is pretty rare,” O’Connell told Sportscar365.

“The transition to where they were using me as an ambassador and stuff like that, it was nice. Having been with the brand for so many years, I thought it was a good fit.

“But all good things come to an end. With no new product coming out for 2020, they were like, ‘We’re not going to renew your contract.’

“I kind of expected it, to be honest with you, because they weren’t using me much as I [would have liked].”

Considered one of the most successful sports car racing drivers of the modern era, O’Connell won in his debut with GM, in the 2001 Rolex 24 at Daytona, sharing a Corvette C5-R with Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and Franck Freon that claimed overall honors.

It was his first of 41 victories with Corvette Racing, second only to Oliver Gavin in the factory program’s history.

In addition to his success at Le Mans, O’Connell has won the Twelve Hours of Sebring a record eight times, having also been inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame.

O’Connell “95 Percent Retired” But Not Ruling Out Le Mans Return

While not having raced competitively since the 2018 PWC round at Utah Motorsports Campus, where he shared a Robinson Racing-run Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R with his son Canaan, O’Connell told Sportscar365 that he’s “95 percent retired” from racing.

However, the Silver-rated driver has not ruled out one-off drives in key endurance races such as Le Mans or Sebring given the right opportunity.

“A buddy of mine is going to do Ferrari Challenge next year and I got a chance to drive a 488. I haven’t lost a tick. I’m not worried about speed at all,” he said.

“But it’s a question of do I want do it again, if I’m honest with you. I miss Sebring and Le Mans and the big races… but the sport has [changed].

“If the right deal came for Le Mans, I’d be there in a second. I’ll see where I’m at when I’m 60, if I can still do the lap times.

“I work out harder now than I ever have. To be honest, I don’t expect Ferrari or Porsche to call me up. You spend 20 years with one company and you’re labeled [with them].

“But you never know how things are going to turn out.”

O’Connell has been staying active through his and Darren Law’s new ‘Performance Track Day’ program at Apex Motor Club in Arizona, which has been aimed as a “fantasy camp” for automotive enthusiasts.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk joined O’Connell and Law for the inaugural outing earlier this month, with a number of “big names” lined up for future events.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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