SONOMA, Calif. – Team Cadillac began its return to the Pirelli World Challenge Series last year with one goal in mind: win the Manufacturer’s Championship.
On Aug. 5 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, they did exactly that, and even locked up the Driver’s Championship as well with Johnny O’Connell.
Team Cadillac left America’s heartland with a 10-point lead over Porsche in the race for manufacturer honors. At Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, during the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma, driver Andy Pilgrim’s second-place finish cemented the title Team Cadillac wanted above all others. The final tally was 89 for Cadillac, 69 for Volvo, 68 for Porsche.
O’Connell, who finished fifth in the finale on Saturday, had an unassailable 176-point lead over teammate Pilgrim in the Driver’s championship leaving Mid-Ohio, and he finished 149 points ahead of Pilgrim for the Driver’s title. Team Cadillac finished 1-2 in the Driver standings.
While the wet and rainy Round 11 at Mid-Ohio nearly sealed the deal, the Saturday romp at Sonoma made it official: Team Cadillac brought home both big prizes the team set out to win before the season started.
Reaction was swift and joyous.
"Cadillac Racing secured the Pirelli World Challenge Series GT Manufacturer's Championship on the one-year anniversary of its first victory since rejoining the series,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, following the race at Mid-Ohio. “This achievement is the result of hard work, intense focus on continuous improvement and innovation by our CTS-V race teams, drivers and engineering staff. It's great to clinch the manufacturers’ championship with so many Cadillac owners here supporting the effort."
Cadillac Vice-President Don Butler was ecstatic.
“Wrapping up the manufacturer’s title is pretty fulfilling, considering that it’s our second year in,” Butler said. “We have a great team, and working together with Pratt & Miller, Steve Cole and the guys, Johnny, Andy and Jordan Taylor, who ran our third car at Mid-Ohio, they delivered when it counted.”
Butler said that the racing program is part and parcel of the V-Series program, and that winning on the track is very important to the brand.
“For us, racing is a way for us to bring attention to our V-Series and the performance heritage we have as a brand,” he said. “Our credentials are proven on the track every day, and this championship just demonstrates the kind of effort it takes to win on race day and also the effort we put into our cars in our performance vehicles like the V-Series.”
In an exciting era of Cadillac, with new models hitting showroom floors with a groundswell of approval, it’s a banner that Cadillac’s marketing department will fly with pride.
“What a great season, we've been consistent and strong all year and now to wrap it up with the manufacturer’s championship is fantastic,” said Jim Vurpillat, Cadillac Global Marketing Director. “They say championships are won when nobody is watching and that's so indicative of the effort that the team put in during the offseason, and all the work they do when they arrive early at the track and leave late is a testament to their professionalism and dedication. Steve Cole is phenomenal as a team manager, I can’t say enough about the work that Pratt & Miller has done for us all year.
“When you start to win on the race track, when you’re competing against your luxury rivals, it starts to translate, and we’re seeing a lot of success in the showroom as well,” Vurpillat continued. “You couldn’t ask for a better way to wrap up the season with the manufacturer’s championship. That was the goal at the beginning of the season, and when you realize your goal, it feels good. When you have two great drivers like Johnny and Andy, and at Mid-Ohio, Jordan Taylor, they’re the class of the field and it showed.”
John Kraemer, Cadillac V-Series and Racing Marketing Manager, made the point that Cadillac is indeed back.
“We said Cadillac is back when we started last year, and this is the exclamation point,” he said. “Cadillac is back.”
It all goes back to why Cadillac is in racing to begin with.
“We race to validate the performance connections that we know we have in the V-Series, and that trickles down and validates the performance of Cadillac,” Kraemer said. “To take a program from where we started last year, back in after a four-year hiatus, learn a lot throughout the season, make the cars better at the end of last year and to be where we are today, on the cusp of winning a manufacturer’s championship, is just tremendous. It’s a tremendous tribute to the entire Pratt & Miller team, the drivers, Johnny and Andy, have done a tremendous job, along with Jordan. We just couldn’t be happier.“
Consistency was the name of the game for Team Cadillac. For the season, O’Connell amassed three victories, nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Pilgrim won once, had an amazing 11 top-five finishes and also recorded 12 top-10s. That’s 24 top-10 finishes, 20 top-five finishes and four victories in a combined 24 races.
Pilgrim, driver of the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, has been through this before, winning manufacturer’s titles for the brand in 2005 and 2007.
“It’s always been the goal,” Pilgrim said of the manufacturer’s title. “I’ve been involved in a lot of manufacturer’s championships, two of them with Cadillac, this will be the third one for me with Cadillac, so it feels great to get another one.”
Pilgrim has been with the program through both iterations, and he’s seen it all during that time.
“It’s been a tough year, a growing year, and we’ve had some luck with some other guys having issues, but that’s the way racing is. It takes consistent, great service from everybody on the team, the drivers, engineers, crew guys…everybody has to give it their all. Sometimes you make good luck, and we had some great luck this year, won some super races and we have another manufacturer’s championship.”