Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim from Team Cadillac took home first and second place in the Pirelli World Challenge Series The Roar By the Shore Long Beach Grand Prix presented by KIA. O’Connell posted his 11th career victory for Cadillac.
O’Connell was able to race to Long Beach redemption after he coasted to a stop five turns from the checkered flag in last year’s event. O’Connell was able to get a great start and lead the field the entire race distance of 31 laps. His only challenge was pressure from teammate Pilgrim who finished in second place.
“I got a pretty good start,” O’Connell said. “Andy may have gotten a little better launch than I did, but there was no way I wasn’t going into Turn One deep. I think Andy I were really close I just had the track position. Getting so close last year I was super motivated to get the win today. It was nice to get the victory for the team and all of the Cadillac fans that came out this weekend.”
“I got a really good start,” Pilgrim said. “Johnny was on the inside, so I was happy to slot in behind him into Turn One. Our plan was to work hard at the beginning of the race as we thought it would get slippery towards the end with our heavy car. We both were sliding at the end. Traffic worked in our favor. A good day for Cadillac.”
“You hope it might be the other way around and sometimes it is,” Pilgrim said. “But it’s all good, because we’re teammates. We felt we had an advantage here, but the next track we won’t. The downforce of the FIA cars will come into play. And we have three years’ experience on these cars, with the setups. They’ll learn more as the season goes on. We’ve got 14 more races to go. It’s just the beginning for now.”
In third and posting a solid effort where he closed but was unable to overtake the Cadillacs was Anthony Lazzaro in the R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Lazzaro, who finished fourth at St. Petersburg, secured R. Ferri’s first overall podium in only the team’s second Pirelli World Challenge race.
“We’ve made a lot of progress. R. Ferri Motorsports is going to be here to stay,” he said. “Every lap we’re making improvements. It’s one of the best race cars I’ve had. We didn’t have anything for the Cadillacs but we made it look better than it was. We should be better at Barber.”
In fourth and leading a trio of Audi R8 Ultras was Andrew Palmer in the GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra while James Sofronas secured his first top five of the new year in the Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra.
Michael Mills, took top honors in the GT-A classification in the EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R. He finished 10th overall and took advantage when trouble struck erstwhile GT-A leader Nick Mancuso in the R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 on Lap 27.
“It’s good to be on top of the box, and in a Porsche,” Mills said. “It’s a bit unfortunate for Nick that he had some sort of contact, but we’re glad to take the win. Most guys were really courteous today, and we’re all starting to know each other and the respect is coming.”
Henrik Hedman finished second in GT-A in the DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, with Jeff Courtney, of was third in Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra. Hedman and Courtney finished 11th and 12th overall, and their podium finishes ensured the GT-A category has had six different drivers in the top three in just two races.
GTS also has that statistic of six podium finishers from two races with Kia Racing/Kinetic Motorsports‘ pair of Nic Jonsson and Mark Wilkins ending first and third in the race. Jonsson took the lead on lap twoand led the rest of the way. That pass of pole sitter Jack Roush Jr. netted Jonsson the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race.
Jonsson controlled the race after the race’s only restart. The lone caution flag flew on the first lap when there was contact between Jack Baldwin in the RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, and David Sterckx, in the Always Evolving Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Thankfully both drivers climbed out of their cars under their own power. Long Beach marks the second PWC victory of Jonsson’s career, but his first in almost a decade; he won in the Touring Car class at Sonoma Raceway in 2004.
“It was a bit bunched up off the start and I took an outside line,” Jonsson said. “The 15 minutes of yellow slowed the flow but we got going again. We started racing and I was fortunate to maintain it through the rest of the race. It’s been a long run of tough luck; we had pace all the time, I just couldn’t finish it.”
Behind him was a snarling pack of Ford Mustang Boss 302 cars. Tony Buffomante drove steadily to second place in the Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S to earn his first career series podium.
“That start was pretty hairy!” said Buffomante, who started fourth in class. “I thought going in, ‘There isn’t much room here for the standing start.’ But Nic and I went wheel to wheel, and we really enjoyed a super clean race. I couldn’t quite track him down and I held off Roush in another Boss 302 behind me. It’s a dream start for us and the Ford family.”
Unfortunately for pole sitter Roush Jr. who fell back at the start in the Roush Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R and eventually was passed on the last lap by Jonsson’s teammate, Mark Wilkins in the Kia Motors America Kia Optima.
“Jack ran a really strong race, but I think his tires were getting a little tired,” Wilkins said. “He might have missed a shift and I dove on the brakes and went for it. But we made it stick for Kia at our home race.”
Lastly Erik Davis took home the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start award after gaining nine spots from the start in the Always Evolving Racing/Autotopia LLC Ford Mustang Boss 302S.
The next weekend of Pirelli World Challenge competition will be its first trip to Barber Motorsports Park April 25-27, where the GT, GT-A, GTS, TC, TCA and TCB categories will all be in action.