Cadillac V-Performance Racing drivers Johnny O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) and Michael Cooper (Syosset, N.Y) are ready for the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) GT season opening double-header weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 10-12.
The Cadillac Racing drivers will be putting their Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupes through their paces at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn modified street course that circulates through the city streets of St. Petersburg and a runway at the Albert Whitted Airport. In 2016 each of the Cadillac drivers stood on the PWC GT St. Pete podium with O’Connell third in the first race and Cooper third in the second.
The competition level of the PWC GT Championship has been increasing each year. For four-time champion O’Connell this suits him perfectly.
“The first race of the year is always interesting as some guys are knocking the rust off and others are pretty dialed in,” O’Connell said. “All of the teams are just getting their feet under them. Basically I plan on just continuing on as I always do, working hard with the team to put the most competitive Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe on the track that we can. I always enjoy racing at St Pete. Hard to believe my first win there was in Formula Atlantic in 1987. Luckily for me I’m just as hungry as I was back then.
“At this level you want to compete against the best, so it’s great that a few more fast guys are entering the series,” O’Connell said. “Having Ferrari back and a fast pro in a Mercedes is only a good thing. I think the fans enjoy the diverse cars and competition.”
O’Connell’s goal for 2017 is a carryover from 2016.
“But for a flat tire at Lime Rock and an electrical issue at Road America last year I feel we would have won number five,” he continued. “So the goal is what it always is, win races and the championship as well as represent Cadillac and the series at the highest level.”
Cooper is excited by the competition and ready to open the season with a “street fight” in St. Pete on Saturday.
“It’s incredible to see the depth of World Challenge increasing year after year,” Cooper said. “I hope the fans can appreciate the talent in this GT Class, I have not seen a name on the entry list that made me say – that guy can’t win. With that said, I don’t think I need to remind anybody how strong Cadillac Racing is, we’ll be ready.
“The circuit itself has a great mix of high speed, low speed, chicanes and heavy braking, which keeps the driver’s on their toes. That, combined with just enough passing opportunities, makes for entertaining racing for the fans. A street course is one of the coolest places to start the season and the amount of energy the city of St. Petersburg puts into the event is what makes it so fantastic. We will be aggressive. I’m prepared for a typical street fight. Let’s just hope the aggression is slightly tempered.”
Cooper’s season goal mirrors that of O’Connell.
“I want to win the Championship. Period. But that isn’t my goal per se,” he continued. “Minimizing mistakes and getting the most out of each race is what will ultimately achieve that goal. That is my focus. I’ve always gone about my racing in that way and my mindset has not changed.”
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac Racing