O’Connell’s Cadillac Sweeps Belle Isle
DETROIT — Johnny O’Connell and Andy Lee defended their Saturday wins with a Sunday victories in the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac V-Series Challenge at Belle Isle.
The Cadillac and Camaro gave General Motors a weekend sweep on the temporary street circuit in the shadow of their world headquarters.
O’Connell’s No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V won overall and in the GT class during the 27-lap Round Seven race, which was shortened to a 50-minute timed race after being slowed twice for 12 laps for full course cautions. The race finished behind the safety car, with the Cadillac averaging 66.719 mph in the 56.16-mile race.
O’Connell started from pole in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V, but lost the drag race from the standing start to the first corner to Lawson Aschenbach’s No. 1 Privacy Star/Entrust Porsche 911 GT3. Aschenbach led the first 14 laps, including seven laps under the first caution caused when the No. 2 Hawk Performance Nissan GT-R made heavy impact with the wall.
Aschenbach pulled away from the restart with O’Connell in tow and the No. 9 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 of Alex Figge and the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V of Andy Pilgrim also giving chase. A bobble by Aschenbach in Turn 12 slid his Porsche wide, and O’Connell moved into the lead on lap 15.
O’Connell and Aschenbach pulled away in a two-man race, with the gap between the two fluctuating slightly as the pair worked their way through traffic. Aschenbach was on the bumper of O’Connell when Roger Miller’s No. 23 Ford Mustang Boss 302S hit the tires in Turn 1, rolled onto his side door temporarily, and then settled back on his tires to bring out the final caution on lap 22. Miller walked away, but time expired before the car could be removed and the tire wall repaired to give O’Connell his second win of the weekend and third of the season.
“The day actually began after yesterday’s race, going over what my car was doing,” O’Connell said. “In yesterday’s race, there were some things that I wasn’t happy about, and looking at data with my engineer and making the right moves over night. In this morning’s session, I pretty much focused on the balance I thought I would need toward the middle of our stint. I got to where I was pretty good with my car.
“I was just going to bide my time and hope that traffic worked in my favor. There were two corners where he just had a little bit of difficulty getting his car initially pointed, made just a slight mistake, killed enough of his momentum and left me enough of a gap to shoot through. From that point on, I was just trying to be smooth and hope that traffic worked in our favor. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that when I saw that wreck at the end I was happy, because Lawson was breathing down my neck pretty good.”
A motivated O’Connell also turned the fastest lap of the race, in 1:26.952 (86.116 mph). His pass for the lead was named the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race.
“If there’s a race that, when you drive for Cadillac, more than any other place you want to win in Detroit,” O’Connell said. “Especially when the president of GM comes up to you before the race and wishes you luck. Not that that adds any pressure!”
Aschenbach was clearly disappointed in the runner-up finish, despite the effort.
“We obviously had a good start,” Aschenbach said. “I was able to get in the lead and sort of hold Johnny at bay. We were hoping for a long green, because it seemed like our car was a bit better in the long runs. It was all working pretty good until that first caution, and I’m not quite sure if I just picked up too much stuff on the tires or what was going on but the car got pretty loose on entry. What ended up happening is, Johnny ran a great race and I just got a little loose and he was able to get around me.
“I tried to make it good at the end and give him a little bit of a fight, but unfortunately there was another caution.”
Figge started fifth and moved to third on the standing start, then spent the entire race with his mirrors full of Pilgrim’s Cadillac in the battle for the final podium spot. Figge fought off Pilgrim, with the two coming home in third and fourth position, respectively.
James Sofronas finished fifth in the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3.
Andy Lee led flag-to-flag in the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro to get his third win of the season and second of the weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Running in the shadow of General Motors’ world headquarters, Lee fought off veteran Jack Baldwin’s No. 68 Hot Wheels/Voodoo Ride Invoice Prep Porsche Cayman S to the checkered flag.
“We came into this weekend knowing we’d be competitive, but to sweep the whole weekend is definitely beyond expectations,” Lee said. “This team of ours is small and we’re learning, but these guys really put their heart and soul into these cars. I’m proud of the effort. It’s nice to be in a Chevrolet in Detroit and take home a couple of wins in front of the home factory. I’m pretty proud of the whole weekend, it’s unbelievable.”
Baldwin, who last competed in Detroit during his 1992 championship winning Trans-Am Series season, finished second in class behind the pace car. He also earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award when he passed Peter Cunningham’s No. 42 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX on lap 15.
“The last time I was in Detroit, 20 years ago, I was out in the Hot Wheels Camaro, and this time I’m in the Hot Wheels Cayman, so it’s kind of cool,” Baldwin said. “I like street racing, and Belle Isle is probably my favorite street circuit.
“It was good racing today. I got past Peter down into Turn 1, and raced with Andy. My hat’s off to him. He did a great job. He was smart, he had a real good car. I really didn’t have anything for him. I had a couple of opportunities, but I couldn’t make them materialize.”
Cunningham finished third, and relinquished the Championship lead with Lee’s victory.
A pair of Ford Mustangs completed the top five, with Jason von Kluge’s No. 19 Steeda Autosports Ford Mustang Boss 302S passing Justin Bell’s No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S on lap 14 and holding on for fourth. Bell finished fifth.