MONTEREY, Calif. – Andy Pilgrim had to keep track of a lot of information in the closing laps of Friday’s Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Chief among them was the position of one Lawson Aschenbach.
Aschenbach, who had to start 15th in the field because he missed qualifying, rocketed through the field to fourth place late in the 50-minute Pirelli World Challenge Series event on the 2.238-mile layout, and had he passed Pilgrim in the final four laps, he would have wrested the Manufacturer’s point lead from Team Cadillac.
He didn’t, and Pilgrim hung on to finish third in his No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, keeping Cadillac’s lead intact and cutting the distance to the driver point lead to just 14 points.
“Manufacturer points is all we care about,” an enthused Pilgrim said on the podium after the race.
Pilgrim had a couple of chances to put a car between himself and Aschenbach, but missed by inches on both. The Volvos of race winner Randy Pobst and second-place Alex Figge were just too stout off the corners to get it done.
“It was an elastic band effect with Volvo,” Pilgrim said. “They were slow going into the corners and rockets coming out. I had the best shot on restarts, to try and get Alex. He was very clean; we were bumping, but it was clean. He gave me room and I gave him room. But once I got to the end of the corner, they took off.“
Having that buffer between himself and Aschenbach was tops in his mind.
“I tried, really, because I wanted to put him [Figge] between me and Lawson,” Pilgrim said. “Having Lawson behind me, holy smoke…I had to just be perfect for those four or five laps at the end. Luckily, we were. It just really kept me focused. Lawson raced me fair and really close.”
Pilgrim said he had an advantage on Aschenbach under braking with his Brembo brake system.
“The brakes on our car made it for us. He didn’t make anything on us on brakes.”
Pobst ran away with the victory, crossing the line .699 seconds ahead of his teammate, Figge. Pilgrim was third, 1.58 seconds back, and Aschenbach came home fourth, 1.711 seconds behind.
Johnny O’Connell had rough going in the No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, starting seventh and finishing there. He was carrying 196 pounds of sanctioning-body-mandated weight, and had a struggle to stay with the lead group.
O’Connell, a master of the restart, had a couple of chances on late restarts to improve his position, but couldn’t close the deal before Turn 3.
Despite the extra weight he carried, O’Connell was pleased with the day.
“Restarts were good today,” he said. “The guys did an amazing job; the race car was the best car I had all weekend. But that much weight was murder here. Not just in the momentum I had to carry up the hill, but in the way my car was handling. You want to win, but you’re glad that Andy had a really good run in third. It was a good event for Cadillac.”
After Pobst, Figge, Pilgrim and Aschenbach came the Porsche of Steve Ott to round out the top five. Mike Skeen came from 16th to finish sixth, followed by O’Connell and the Porsches of Justin Marks, Tomy Drissi and Bret Curtis.
O’Connell still leads the driver points by 14, 573-559, over Pilgrim, with Pobst now third at 502. James Sofronas, who was third coming in, retired midway through Friday’s race and finished 15th in GT. Aschenbach is fourth at 427.
In the Manufacturer’s race, Cadillac doubled its lead from Utah and stands four points higher than Porsche, 37-33, after five races. Volvo leaped into the battle in third place, with 25 points.
Next race for Team Cadillac is on home turf June 1-3 at the Cadillac Detroit Grand Prix on the Belle Isle course in the middle of the Detroit River.
Friday’s Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix of Monterey is set for broadcast May 27 at 11 p.m. EDT on the NBC Sports Network.
View live streaming on the day of the races and continuously on demand after races.
2012 Utah Grand Prix Recap