70 WINTER 2014
pIREllI WoRld challENgE 2014
superior starts and sheer cussedness.
Prior to the CTS-V’s enforced weight
gain (and removing a bad day at the office
from the mix, i.e., steering damage and
19th for the defending champ in the St.
Pete season-opener), O’Connell’s average
finishing position was 2.57; post-Road
America it fell to an even 5th place. Sure,
that’s a significant dropoff, but it proved
enough to keep him in the mix heading in
to the Miller Motorsports Park finale.
Similarly, Pilgrim’s average finish
(again, removing a 17th-place “mulligan”)
was 3. 43 pre-weight gain, and then a hair
over 6th, post-130lb. makeover.
“This probably was my best year in the
cockpit as far as executing at all levels;
whether it be practice, qualifying, or the
race,” says O’Connell of toughing it out.
“And after four years with my engineer
John Lankes, he’s completely in my head
and knows what I’m looking for.
“When we knew that we were going to
be under attack, everybody as a team
pulled together, and every single level of
the team executed. All season, we were
pretty much mistake-free as a team. And
I think that was the key. We didn’t have
any races with a mechanical issue or
failure...and pretty much everyone else
did. Our guys stayed on top of what has
historically proven to be not only a very
fast car, but also a very reliable car.”
The value of that reliability was vividly
apparent at the season-finale at Miller
Motorsports Park, when O’Connell
secured the championship after rival
Mike Skeen’s Audi suffered a half-shaft
2014 PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE
a T a glaNcE