100 2014 CHEVROLET RACING SPECIAL
CAdILLAC IN PIRELLI wORLd CHALLENGE
concentrate on the fight to retain his own
title in the Texas shootout still to come.
For everyone in the Cadillac camp,
Mid-Ohio and Sonoma weren’t good for
the blood pressure. But for O’Connell,
they represented an unwelcome omen as
he prepared for the Houston finale.
“I’m a pretty superstitious fella,” he
admits. “Bad things usually happen to me
in threes. So going into Houston, after a
bad weekend in Mid-Ohio, and then the
debacle of Sonoma, in the back of my
mind I was thinking that the racing gods
were aligning against me.”
Initially, he seemed to be right. Teething
troubles with the Houston track had denied
the World Challenge field from being able
to run a proper qualifying session, and
practice had also been curtailed. Just to
make things even more interesting, it was
raining when the cars lined up for the
start of the race – always a nervy
situation on a street course. And worse,
O’Connell’s car wasn’t behaving itself.
“The hardest thing was that initially the
rain settings that we put on the car
electronically were awful,” he says. “So,
five or six laps in, I just abandoned them.
I thought, ‘I could do better than this by
taking control away from the computer
and just driving the car.’”
That’s when things started to change.
Not only was O’Connell able to calm the
Cadillac down, but the rain began to back
off. Gradually the track conditions started
to shift in his favor.
“All of a sudden, I noticed that the guys
who had been pulling away had stopped
pulling away and were starting to come
toward me,” he says. “That was inwardly a
huge psychological moment; realizing that
I hadn’t lost the championship, I was going
to win race and win the championship.”
For Caldwell, watching from the pit
wall, the race was like the whole 2013
campaign in microcosm.
“Houston summed up the season in
one race,” he says. “It was epic. We didn’t
know it was going to dry out; nobody knew
that. It was a huge challenge. The first 15
laps was just anticipation – we weren’t
leading, and it didn’t look like things were
going to change. But the weather changed
on us, and the action on the track was just
awesome to watch. At the end of the race,
our strategy played out well, and we are
very fortunate to have Johnny O’Connell
and Andy Pilgrim representing our team.
They are truly experts at what they do.”
Having a solid driver line-up is a big
part of the equation, but O’Connell is
equally quick to reciprocate the praise.
“It’s a strength of the team that we
almost always roll off the trailer with a
really good racecar,” he says. “In a series
where you have limited track time, the
ability of the engineers to really
understand the challenges of the weekend
setup-wise can give you an advantage.”
And of course, there is the car itself.
Both Caldwell and O’Connell believe that
one of the strengths of the Cadillac CTS-V
is its versatility; a key quality in a series
with tracks as diverse as those visited by
the Pirelli World Challenge.
“There are road courses and street
courses with a diverse set of conditions.
Some tight and rough, some open and
smooth. It’s important to be able to put
very, very different setups on the car,”
Let it all out... Cadillac
came to the Houston
finale already crowned
as the Manufacturers’
Champion, but adding
another PWC Drivers’
crown made for a
tense and dramatic
race. Job done, the
team gets celebrating.
Pilgrim gets some air
during Lime Rock
“It’s a strength of the team
that we almost always roll
off the trailer with a
really good racecar”