O’Connell Wires Detroit World Challenge
DETROIT – Johnny O’Connell, Dan Knox and Dean Martin took wins in round five of the Pirelli World Challenge season Saturday during the Cadillac V-Series Challenge presented by the Metro Detroit Cadillac Dealers at Belle Isle Park.
Both O’Connell (GT) and Martin (GTS) converted Motul pole positions into race wins, while Knox (GT-A) came from third on the grid to capture his first series victory.
O’Connell, driving the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, got an excellent launch from the standing start and within two laps, had a lead of more than 4.5 seconds on the rest of the field.
From there, O’Connell held off all comers to score his second win of the season and fourth win in his last five starts on the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park circuit in Detroit. He won by 3.309 seconds after leading all 26 laps.
“The start was huge,” O’Connell said. “My strategy was to push as hard as I could early, knowing my car would go off. But all the guys behind me started racing, which slowed them down. I had to keep my eyes down, and get to traffic in the right place. It was a lot about timing and not making mistakes.”
The battle in GT was behind him for second. Mike Skeen, in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra, made a great start to emerge second, but spent the next several laps holding off O’Connell’s teammate Andy Pilgrim. Pilgrim initially held the position in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, an off at turn three on lap nine dropped him back.
Skeen, Anthony Lazzaro and Andrew Palmer were the other three then engaging in a scrap for the final podium positions. Palmer started eighth in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, but made three positions up off the start to secure the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award. By the race’s only restart on Lap 23, he was up to third.
Palmer made it past Skeen for second into turn one. An opportunistic Lazzaro, in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, made it past Skeen on the same lap for third.
Skeen ended fourth for his best result yet since the CRP Racing team switched to the Audi at round two of the season in Long Beach. The pair of K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3s, Alex Figge and Robert Thorne ended a season-best fifth and sixth in the Nos. 9 and 6 cars.
In GT-A, Knox, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3-R drove a controlled race while top two starters Michael Mills and Marcelo Hahn both ran into issues during the race.
Mills, in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R had a moment of contact with GTS driver Mitch Landry, in the No. 97 VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S at turn eight. Hahn retired after contact at turn six in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2.