NEW YORK -Cadillac Racing drivers Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper are ready to take on the concrete confines of the longest running street race in America, the Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by Cadillac to run April 15-17.
O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) and Cooper (Syosset, N.Y.) come into this weekend’s race with two different prospectives. O’Connell won on the 1.9-mile, 11-turn temporary street course in 2014. Teammate Cooper will race on the track that winds around the Long Beach Aquarium for the first time. Both Cadillac drivers come into the event with top finishes after four World Challenge races. Rookie Cadillac driver Cooper leads the GT standings with 362 points, while teammate and four-time World Challenge GT driver Champion O’Connell is in second with 360.
O’Connell had a tough outing last year in the streets of Long Beach and is motivated for another street racing win this weekend.
“Naturally I feel I have unfinished business after last year,” said O’Connell. “I was running in third when I got taken out. I felt our Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe was capable of winning that race. The limited track time at Long Beach, is something I hope works to our advantage this weekend. With the exception of the Porches, I think the competition has been amazingly close in the first four races.”
Starting position is key when competing on a closed street course.
“Qualifying is always one of my favorite parts of the weekend,” he continued. “Being conservative rarely enters the equation. After five years of working together, I have complete confidence in my engineer John Lankes and the Cadillac Racing crew. I know they will give me a great set-up for both qualifying and the race. They know how I like the car to feel during qualifying, and I always leave set-up decisions to them. The fact that we were able to come back from the accident at Long Beach, and then the fire at Barber last year, speaks to the depth of our team.”
Cooper will be seeing the Long Beach circuit, which first hosted a Formula 5000 race in 1975, for the first time.
“I have never been to Long Beach before, I’ve been watching onboard videos from last year and utilizing simulators that have the track layout to try and get a feel for the layout,” said Cooper. “Our set-up work in practice won’t be any different than any other weekend. Even though qualifying is at a premium, we need to be confident that the car will be consistent on a longer run. It is not guaranteed that there will be a lot of cautions. There is never much room to be conservative in the sprint races we have in World Challenge. That’s even further amplified on the street courses, you have to be really aggressive at all times. I expect everybody to be on their game at Long Beach, especially the Porsches. They have won three of the first four races, so it is clearly the car to beat.”
The single World Challenge GT race from Long Beach will take the green flag at 10 a.m. PT on Sunday, April 17. It will be televised on the CBS Sports Network Sunday, April 17 at 2 p.m. ET.
Cadillac Racing, since its inception in 2004, has amassed 27 wins, 94 podium finishes (including wins) and 22 pole positions. The team won the World Challenge Manufacturer Championship in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Cadillac Racing drivers have won the World Challenge Driver’s Championship in 2005 with Andy Pilgrim and in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 with Johnny O’Connell.
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