Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

Cadillac ends its title-winning PWC program

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Cadillac Racing has been a stalwart of Pirelli World Challenge through a couple different periods and with several different racecars.

But as the series moves to a customer-based platform in 2018, the factory-backed Cadillac effort has withdrawn its program at the end of this season. The team debuted its GT3-spec Cadillac ATS-V.R at the start of the 2015 season and won a title with Johnny O’Connell that year; the team also captured the SprintX title this year with Michael Cooper and Jordan Taylor.

This will end Cadillac’s tenure in the series and comes as a bit of a blow to the championship. The Cadillac brand entered the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the start of 2017 with its Cadillac DPi-V.R Daytona Prototype international (DPi) program.

Cadillac’s release is below, followed by a statement from PWC:

Cadillac will place its championship-winning Pirelli World Challenge V-Performance Racing GT team into hibernation, following a September sweep of the GT class at the season-finale double header at Sonoma Raceway.

Since the team first assembled in 2004 to take the first-ever Cadillac CTS-V Sedan sprint racing against the toughest GT competition around, it has amassed 33 wins, 121 podium finishes (including the wins), and 25 pole positions. As a team, Cadillac competed in 332 races across eleven years of competition.

Drivers having contributed to the program include Johnny O’Connell, Michael Cooper, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Andy Pilgrim, Max “the Axe” Angelelli, Ron Fellows, John Heinricy, Olivier Berretta, and Lawson Aschenbach. The team won World Challenge Manufacturer Championships in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Cadillac Racing drivers earned the World Challenge Driver’s Championship in 2005 with Andy Pilgrim, and with Johnny O’Connell in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. This year, Michael Cooper and copilot Jordan Taylor earned the first-ever SprintX Driver Championship honors.

“Throughout 11 years of competition with Cadillac Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge Series, we have taken tremendous pride in our successes, including 33 wins, 121 podium finishes and multiple manufacturer and driver’s championships,” said Mark Kent, Director of Motorsports Competition for Cadillac Racing. “We also have taken tremendous pride in the level of technology transfer that has occurred between the Cadillacs competing on track and their showroom counterparts. This technology transfer has helped make the Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V production models very track-capable and athletic.”

“Cadillac road cars are better than ever thanks to racing with World Challenge,” said Rich Brekus, Global Director of Product Strategy for Cadillac. “Equally importantly, the Cadillac Racing GT Team has earned the enthusiasm of thousands of fans around the world. You will see Cadillac Racing t-shirts in the crowd at LeMans each year, thanks to the GT program. The team has provided excellent representation on and off the track, and perfectly reflects the core of passion in our brand. The drivers and crew have been true ambassadors as we introduced Cadillac V-Performance to the marketplace. In 2018, we will take a pause in Pirelli World Challenge as we focus completely on our effort in prototype sports car racing. However, we maintain a regular and open communication with Greg Gill, the World Challenge CEO, and hope to one day return to the Series in some form.”

Finishing in style befitting Cadillac, Michael Cooper punctuated the success of the Cadillac Racing GT program by winning both of the season-ending races at Sonoma Raceway in the Vector Blue No. 8 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe on September 16th and 17th.

In the program’s second and third chapters, rebuilding after the 2008-10 stand down for the Great Recession, the team’s most competitive streak occurred from 2012-15 when Johnny O’Connell earned four consecutive driver championships. Three of those were secured in the mighty Cadillac CTS-V.R Coupe and one in today’s GT3-homologated Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe. In the same period, O’Connell posted 13 wins in the CTS-V.R and five in the ATS-V.R.

PWC Statement on Cadillac’s departure from the GT3 division:

From Greg Gill, President and CEO of WC Vision, producers of the Pirelli World Challenge:

“We, at WC Vision, wish the Cadillac brand all the best in its future racing endeavors. Cadillac has been a valued partner for many years. The Cadillac participation in the Pirelli World Challenge has left a legendary mark in series history with numerous GT driver, team and manufacturer championships through the years. In addition, Cadillac’s marketing activation and support grew concurrent with the Series over the past five years. With the continued expansion of customer-based racing in the Pirelli World Challenge, we know our competition level has grown each year and believe those ideals will increase the PWC fields. We hope to see Cadillac back in the Pirelli World Challenge in the near future.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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