BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – Rounds 8 and 9 of the Pirelli World Challenge Series at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park came down to two tires for Team Cadillac: one, on Andy Pilgrim’s No. 8 CTS-V Coupe four laps from the end of Round 8, and the second on Johnny O’Connell’s No. 3 machine five laps from the end of Round 9.
When the flat left front tires revealed themselves, both Pilgrim on Saturday and O’Connell on Sunday were running second in the closing stages of the event. The result was two likely podium finishes down the drain for Team Cadillac, as well as nearly half its 11-point lead in the GT Series Manufacturer’s points.
“It was very disappointing,” Pilgrim said after a fifth-place finish in Round 9 on Sunday. “Johnny was in great position and he had the same issue that I had yesterday. That’s that.”
O’Connell, running second behind eventual winner Mike Skeen on lap 27, had his day ruined in very short order.
“I went into Turn 8, had a very slight then bigger vibration that came up really fast,” O’Connell reported. “We had debriefed and Andy told me what went on with his car yesterday. I went through Turn 9 and went to the brakes in 10 and it was gone.
“You hate it,” he continued. “Up to that point I had been very conscientious, because of the weight my car was carrying, to not overdrive the tire. I was very smooth…I thought we were going to get another second-place finish. It’s a shame, but sometimes in racing these things happen and you’re just grateful when they do that you don’t get hurt.”
On Saturday, Pilgrim was running second when the same thing happened, dropping him to 10th at the finish after a pit stop to replace the tire. On Sunday, after a trip to pit lane to replace the flat left front, O’Connell rejoined and finished…10th.
“I can only imagine it’s the exact same thing that happened to Andy yesterday,” O’Connell said.
On a day when Skeen was the class of the field, a second-place run would have set Team Cadillac up well for the final three races of the season.
The team’s lead in the manufacturer points was nearly halved, going from 11 points after Saturday’s race to just six heading to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August. Lawson Aschenbach, who finished second on Sunday, gave Porsche six points toward the championship, while Pilgrim’s fifth-place run netted just two for Team Cadillac.
Pilgrim had a frustrating day from the start, when Aschenbach got past him into Turn 1 on the standing start. Steve Ott got past on lap six, shuffling Pilgrim back to sixth, and he spent the rest of the day behind the blue Porsche.
“My car was not great today, at all,” Pilgrim said. “I had nothing for Steve Ott. He’s a good driver, didn’t make any mistakes. I just couldn’t get by him. We bumped three or four times, and that was it. I couldn’t get by him.”
The irony of the weekend—coming off a sweep by O’Connell of the Cadillac V-Series Challenge at Detroit earlier this month—is that Team Cadillac finished second and 10th on Saturday and fifth and 10th on Sunday.
Skeen won both races, pushing his winning streak on the 2.459-mile, 10-turn course to four straight, all in the same Corvette. On Sunday, he led Aschenbach, Volvo’s Alex Figge, Ott and Pilgrim to the flag.
O’Connell’s lead over Pilgrim in the driver standings fell to 177 points, while Pilgrim’s lead over Aschenbach for second went from 60 to 33. Figge and Skeen round out the top five.
Next up for the Pirelli World Challenge Series is at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Aug. 3-5.
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