Four-time defending Pirelli World Challenge GT class champion Johnny O’Connell has expressed thanks and sincere gratitude to his longtime teammate Andy Pilgrim, who will not be returning to Cadillac Racing in 2016.
In a post written on Facebook Monday night, O’Connell made several key mentions of not just Pilgrim the driver, but Pilgrim the man.
“For five years Andy pushed me hard, and made me become a far better driver than I ever was at Corvette,” O’Connell wrote.
“His dedication to the team and the fans of Cadillac never waned, and he always gave 100 percent.
“He would reach out to other competitors when they were seeking help, and never in all the time I’ve known him let his anger or frustration get the better of him. Respected and admired by all that know him.”
O’Connell noted Pilgrim’s dedication to his own foundation, the Andy Pilgrim Foundation, which promotes safe driving for teens.
He described how important Pilgrim has been to him personally, not just as a teammate.
“He has a way of thinking and speaking with clarity and directness that I always appreciated and found refreshing,” O’Connell wrote.
“Rocking chair equity is a term I like to use with people with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to make memories that years from now I will look back upon with pride and happiness, and mentally recall amazing times.
“So Andy, thanks for some of the best rocking chair equity I’ve had in my life. You are a great friend, competitor, and racing driver. Love ya brother.”
Cadillac Racing is yet to confirm the scale of its 2016 program in World Challenge, but is expected to return once again with two cars to defend its GT driver’s championship, while seeking to regain the manufacturer’s championship it lost to Porsche this year.
Details of Cadillac Racing’s program are usually confirmed in early December.
There is a strong possibility Cadillac will go down the route for a younger driver, compared to a lifelong GM veteran, to replace Pilgrim in one of the most plum seats in sports car racing.
Pilgrim, 59, meanwhile, is Silver-rated by the FIA and could be an asset for any GT Daytona teams come the start of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Pilgrim endured a nightmare 2015 season where he finished 11th in the GT class standings with a best finish of fourth. It ended a run of top-five season finishes, ending fifth, second, third and fourth from 2011 to 2014.
In a stellar 15-year career with GM dating to 1999, the inception of the Corvette Racing program, Pilgrim scored several podium finishes at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and has won a World Challenge championship in a previous generation Cadillac CTS-V.