After long hours spent preparing the team’s backup car following Johnny O’Connell’s practice crash on Friday, Cadillac Racing Program Manager Laura Klauser says she’s confident the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R is more than capable of a strong race this afternoon.
O’Connell made heavy contact in Turn 6 in the second practice session of the weekend, derailing the momentum gained after topping the charts in the first practice hours earlier.
A quick look over the damaged Cadillac was enough for the team to decide to make the switch to the squad’s backup car, pressing the erstwhile show car into action for the rest of the weekend.
The rebuilt car passed its first test in qualifying this morning, locking in a 13th place starting spot for Pirelli World Challenge Race 1 at Sonoma Raceway.
It was a remarkable achievement given the amount of work that went into preparing the car to make it on track in time for the session.
“We have it set up so it is our spare car and it is available, so it does double duty,” Klauser told Sportscar365 of the reserve chassis.
“It’s actually kind of cool, because people ask us if it’s just fake, but it’s actually a real race car.
“Getting it exactly where the car that it’s replacing was, we don’t usually do a lot of updates to the show car throughout the year, so we had to basically touch every part and redo and make sure it was exactly the same as the car it was replacing.
“And of course you have to set it up, every car is a little bit different, and you have to work around that.
“It was a process. We left the track a little after 2 a.m. in the morning, and we left the hotel this morning at 6 a.m..”
The laundry list of tasks to turn a show car into a race car included everything from updating electronics and the A/C system to installing a new engine.
After all the work was completed, however, Klauser said the car is virtually indistinguishable from the chassis it replaced.
“It’s identical,” she said. “It’s going to be a different color, that’s the biggest thing.
“It’s going to be white because by the time 1 a.m. rolled around we decided that changing body panels wasn’t the best use of our time.
“It has O’Connell’s name on it, it’s going to be the same as the car that it’s replacing, just a little bit older. It’s the original car that we did all the testing on.”
This chassis has a rich history with Cadillac Racing. In addition to being the original test car for the squad, it won a pair of races in 2015 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Those wins came under similar circumstances after a serious fire in the previous round at Barber Motorsports Park and with O’Connell at the controls.
Klauser noted that the team’s previous experience prepping the show car for race duty had them prepared to repeat the task here at Sonoma.
“The team has lists and they’re prepared,” she said. “Every member of the team and their particular duties have a to-do list if we have to get the spare car ready to roll.
“That definitely helps us stay focussed, especially in the wee hours of the morning, to make sure that we’re utilizing our time as efficiently as possible.
“We’re prepared for anything we can think of. That’s one of the things we pride ourselves in: we think ahead and we’re prepared for anything we can think of with a plan in place for that situation.
“We’re just really happy to get it done and we’re happy that Johnny’s okay. It was a big wreck. He hit pretty hard, and the safety of the drivers and our people is the biggest thing. The hardware you can replace.
“The guys are a little tired, but Johnny got a good night’s sleep so we’re ready to go.”