O’Connell Is Up To The Challenge
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell (GT), Nic Jonsson (GTS) and Michael Mills (GT-A) took victories in round two of the Pirelli World Challenge season, The Roar By the Shore Presented by Kia, on the streets of Long Beach.
For O’Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, it was a controlled drive from pole position ahead of his teammate Andy Pilgrim, with a margin of victory of 1.528 seconds at 75.313 mph.
O’Connell led all 32 laps to secure his first win of the season and 11th of his Pirelli World Challenge career. It capped a perfect weekend where he took home 151 points, led Friday’s single practice session and took the pole on Saturday.
“You want to hit up the tracks you know that will favor us,” O’Connell said. “If you make no mistakes, good things happen. We didn’t make any mistakes all weekend. ”
After finishing 10th at St. Petersburg, and losing out late in this race last year, this was a needed result for the two-time defending GT class champion.
“Honestly it’s going to be a long season climbing back from what happened at St. Pete,” he said. “We came away with barely any points there. We have to score points, and we got maximum points. Getting so close last year I was super motivated to get the win today.”
Pilgrim made it home in second in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R. The result is Cadillac’s first 1-2 finish of the season, and was last achieved at Round 10 of the 2013 season in Toronto, also led by O’Connell.
“You hope it might be the other way around and sometimes it is,” Pilgrim said. “But it’s all good, because we’re teammates. We felt we had an advantage here, but the next track we won’t. The downforce of the FIA cars will come into play. And we have three years’ experience on these cars, with the setups. They’ll learn more as the season goes on. We’ve got 14 more races to go. It’s just the beginning for now.”
In third and posting a solid effort where he closed but was unable to overtake the Cadillacs was Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Lazzaro, who finished fourth at St. Petersburg, secured R. Ferri’s first overall podium in only the team’s second Pirelli World Challenge race.
“We’ve made a lot of progress. R. Ferri Motorsports is going to be here to stay,” he said. “Every lap we’re making improvements. It’s one of the best race cars I’ve had. We didn’t have anything for the Cadillacs but we made it look better than it was. We should be better at Barber.”
In fourth and leading a trio of Audi R8 Ultras was Andrew Palmer in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra. James Sofronas secured his first top five of the new year in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra.
Mills took top honors in the GT-A classification in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R. He finished 10th overall and took advantage when trouble struck erstwhile GT-A leader Nick Mancuso in the No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 on lap 27.