Cadillac Goes Racing: From V-Series to Pirelli World Challenge & Back Again
There was a time when Cadillac was synonymous with white wall tires, flashy old men and giant road-hogging boats of epic proportion. But over the last decade the brand has executed an enormous transition to high-tech and uber-luxury. In a stalled economy, while other manufacturers played it safe, Cadillac took risks, shook things up and launched an aggressive approach to grabbing market share. That effort is best exemplified by their V-Series line of high-performance vehicles.
But just making a car with a massive engine (in this case a 556 hp supercharged V8) and a host of high-grade components (like Brembo brakes, Recaro seats, a limited-slip diff) doesn’t provide a lot of street cred unless you prove to be a solid contender on the racetrack as well. And so Cadillac went racing to showcase the capabilities of its luxury techno-beast and demonstrate that it was clearly more than the sum of its parts.
Over the Years
The first generation CTS-V was produced between 2004 and 2007 with a 5.7L LS6 V8 engine; later, a 6.0L LS2 V8 was used. Cadillac immediately jumped into the SCCA World Challenge during this same period and quickly established a name for itself when Andy Pilgrim took the GT Championship in 2005 with the CTS-V Sedan.
Fast forward several years and Cadillac now has the second generation CTS-V in its arsenal; after a four year hiatus, it’s once again a force to be reckoned with in motorsports. Factory driver Johnny O’Connell took the overall GT Championship in 2012 with partner in crime Andy Pilgrim right behind in the number 2 position. Most impressive, the wins came during Cadillac Racing’s second year back in the series (which is now called the Pirelli World Challenge).
Cadillac may indeed have the best one-two punch in the World Challenge by matching up superior machinery with a pair of all-stars at the helm. While O’Connell has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Petit Le Mans and a number of other driver/manufacturer races, he may be best known for having won the 12 Hours of Sebring a record 8 times while becoming the first American to earn 4 class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Andy Pilgrim shares many similar accomplishments with more than 60 wins including the 12 Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans and Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Now, in 2013, Cadillac is the manufacturer to beat with a big bullseye on its back. Other teams are regrouping and making a run for the championship with race-worthy vehicles such as the Volvo S60, Audi R8, Nissan GTR, Porsche 911 GT3, Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 and Dodge Viper.
Long Beach Grand Prix
Going into last weekend’s Long Beach Grand Prix, after rounds 2 of 14 complete in the series, Cadillac was in 3rd place behind Volvo & Audi, with hopes of making a strong push back to the front of the pack. If not for a strange turn of events Cadillac Racing would have accomplished that goal. James Sofranas, in the No.14 GMG/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS, started in pole position but lost the advantage early as other drivers found their groove. Alex Figge, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, took the lead until a brake rotor failure caused him to crash into the turn #1 wall with just 4 laps remaining. This gave Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R the lead with an ‘almost’ assured victory.
O’Connell needed to finish just 2 laps under caution to take the win, but just as the white flag came out, smoke began to billow from the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. After only 4 turns the car was out of commission with just under a lap to go (the culprit was a three-inch piece of steel lodged in O’Connell’s radiator, most likely from the disabled Volvo S60). Sofranas, who had fallen back but remained with the front of the pack, jumped into the lead while teammate Andy Pilgrim ended up finishing second in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.
Transfer of Technology
Unlike IndyCar or F1, the most interesting thing about the Pirelli World Challenge is the fact that the cars you see on the track are the very same ones you can buy from the showroom floor (in a manner of speaking). That said, a host of modifications are obviously installed to make the vehicles track-ready and level the competitive playing field, but the Cadillac CTS-V .R race car begins its life on the very same assembly line in Lansing, Michigan as the consumer vehicle.
“We race to validate the performance connections that we know we have in the V-Series, and that trickles down and validates the performance of Cadillac,” stated John Kraemer, Cadillac V-Series and Racing Marketing Manager after winning in 2012.
Cadillac Vice-President Don Butler echoed this sentiment: “For us, racing is a way for us to bring attention to our V-Series and the performance heritage we have as a brand. Our credentials are proven on the track every day, and this championship just demonstrates the kind of effort it takes to win on race day and also the effort we put into our cars in our performance vehicles like the V-Series.”
While the Cadillac CTS-V .R race car is stripped down to the steel unibody for the safety cage to be welded in place and all of its luxury accoutrements removed, it is very close to its production kin. In fact, it even has the same headlights, taillights and roof sheet metal, although the glass sunroof is replaced with carbon-fiber (as are the rest of the body panels). While the wheels look similar to the production model, the .R version shaves 40-50 pounds off of their weight.
In total, over 1,000 pounds are stripped away to drop the race car down to a lean and mean 3,200 pounds. But both vehicles still share similar Brembo brakes, SLA double wishbone front suspension, multi-link independent rear suspensions, ABS, traction control and limited-slip differentials.
The heated and ventilated 14-way Recaro seats in the standard model are replaced with a specially molded Pratt & Miller cooled seat, while the leather-wrapped steering wheel with multifunction controls get swapped out for a $30,000 specialized wheel with 20+ controls which give the driver easy access to every function imaginable.
Cadillac competes in the top-tier GT Class where vehicles have 425 to 525hp; the cars in the GTS Class, which runs at the same time, sport between 300 and 400 hp. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned 556hp supercharged 6.2L V8 engine is detuned in the race-spec version. The supercharger is removed from the equation and output is restricted to 505hp while peak torque is also reduced from 551 lb-ft to 460 lb-ft of torque. Intake restrictors actually make the racecar less powerful than the production vehicle in order to meet limits imposed by the series.
Cadillac Racing Corral
Sunday’s pre-race got off to a nice start with a Cadillacs & Coffee event hosted by D3 Cadillac (the only aftermarket tuning company officially licensed and approved by Cadillac). After a meet-n-greet at the company’s Signal Hill location, the group cruised down to the Grand Prix –en masse– rolling deep and stopping folks in their tracks with the sight and sound of a mob of Cadillac V-Series coupes, sedans and wagons growling down the streets of Long Beach.
The 80+ V-Series vehicles were parked in a specially designated corral behind Grandstand 25, where Cadillac Racing hosted a special event for owners celebrating the close connection between their vehicles and the ones competing on the race track.
In a massive canopied area, Cadillac Racing provided an opportunity for owners to not only chat with one another and enjoy the LBGP race festivities but also to meet with marketing executives, the drivers (including O’Connell and Pilgrim) and other race team members. A few unobtrusive presentations were also given.
By talking with a number of owners, we were truly able to get a sense of the passion these folks have for their V-Series cars and the joy they experience from their daily ‘rides.’ And while most vehicles were still in stock form, there were conversations all over the place regarding potential modifications.
Pratt & Miller is to Cadillac Racing what D3 Cadillac is to the consumer market, an amazing resource for owners who are looking to make performance mods to their V-Series. We listened as President James Gill provided owners with insights on various stage power kits, intake systems, engine swaps, transmission upgrades, exhaust options, suspension tweaks, brake systems and general vehicle maintenance.
All the talk of superchargers and turbos and 700+hp monsters also generated quite a bit of interest in the Cadillac Challenge, a new racing series available for owners to safely test the limits of their vehicles on tracks throughout SoCal including Buttonwillow, Autoclub Speedway, Willow Springs and even Laguna Seca. D3 Cadillac and Toyo Tires are sponsors of the event which will hit 11 different raceways this year.
The future of Cadillac Racing will be interesting as the next-generation CTS-V Sedan arrives in 2014, DTM racing makes its way to the states, and ALMS and the Grand-AM series complete their merger. GM prefers that Cadillac not compete directly with Corvette in ALMS but now, with the shake-up, that might change. Regardless of how things pan out in the motorsports world, you can be sure that the next generation V-Series will be a force to be reckoned with in whatever series they compete. And owners of V-Series vehicles can take take great pride in the stellar racing pedigree of their much-loved coupes, sedans and wagons…