2013 PIREllI WoRld challENgE g T
(ABOVE) A pair of
thirds for O’Connell in
the St. Pete season
opener might have
seemed solid, but a
fantastic start to the
season for James
Sofronas’ Audi R8
(LEFT) put Cadillac
in catch-up mode
from that point on.
for Sofronas. With teammate Pilgrim taking
third on the day and in the final points, the
epic comeback for Caddy was complete.
“The way the rules adjustments were
done in the off-season, I knew we were
going to be up against it with the Audis
and Volvos,” says O’Connell. “Our Cadillacs
handled amazingly; that was never the
problem. But with the rules being what
they were, we just weren’t allowed to have
the power to compete at every round.
demolished the rear of his No. 3 CTS-V
and left him 12th after the Pratt & Miller
crew performed miracles to get him out
for a single points-scoring lap.
Two straight races with finishes outside
the top- 10 dealt a blow to O’Connell at
precisely the wrong time, and with three
consecutive thirds to his credit, Sofronas
was back ahead and carrying a 15-point
lead into the season finale at Houston.
The racing gods weren’t done having
fun at O’Connell’s expense, turning
Friday’s sweltering Texas heat into a
torrential downpour on Saturday, which
favored the mid-engined R8 and the
all-wheel drive Volvos from K-Pax Racing.
Qualifying second during the dry time trials,
O’Connell watched Sofronas pull away from
pole position as the damp track made
putting all of the CTS-V’s prodigious power
to the ground somewhat challenging.
But as the raindrops abated and a dry
line began to appear, Audi’s coronation
soon turned into damage control as the
No. 3 Caddy clawed its way back into a
lead it would hold to the end, turning the
tables on what looked to be a surefire win
“none of the places where
we won were horsepower
tracks. They were places
that rewarded handling”
Fraught, multi-class action is one of the
hallmarks of Pirelli World Challenge,
with the headlining GTs running with
GTS and the Touring Car class sharing
the asphalt with B-spec. All four classes
delivered worthy champions in 2013.
With six wins, six seconds and a third to
his name, Ryan Winchester (BELOW)
headed a 1-2-3 sweep of the final points
for Compass360 Racing’s Honda Civic Si
fleet. Second-placed Brett Sandberg
won four times, with third-placed Remo
Ruscitti taking Rookie of the Year honors.
In its second year as a World Challenge
class, B-Spec truly came of age. Entries
averaged over 20 cars and the title fight
went all the way to the Houston finale,
with Mini Cooper racer Robbie Davis
(BELOW) pipping Joel Lipperini (Honda
Fit) and Ernie Francis Jr. (Mazda 2).
Former World Challenge GT and Touring
Car class champ Lawson Aschenbach
added a third title in a third different
class when he narrowly beat Jack
Baldwin (Porsche Cayman S) for GTS
honors in a Chevrolet Camaro (BELOW),
courtesy of six wins to Baldwin’s three.
claSS ac TS
GTS, TC & TCB
TC: RyAn WinChESTER
TCB: ROBBiE dAViS
GTS: LAWSOn ASChEnBACh
“If you look at the places where we won,
none were horsepower tracks. They were
places that rewarded handling, and that’s
where we made the most of what we had.
The street courses, for the most part, are
where we could show off the engineering
that’s built into the CTS-V platform.”
The finale on the streets of Houston – a
1.7-mile track with only one straight of any
length – made for a perfect, if not slightly
harrowing showcase of the CTS-V’s merits.
“There’s no way we should have won, at
least on paper, against cars that were
seemingly built to have an advantage in
the rain,” added O’Connell. “But once it
was dry and we were all on equal terms,
the Cadillacs outshone the competition. It
was a hell of a way to end the year, and
I know how hard we worked to earn it.”