CTS-V Coupe Brings Cadillac Back to the Track

By Charles Krome

After already establishing itself as one of the most powerful coupes on the road, the Cadillac CTS-V is now out to prove its mettle on the race track: Cadillac has recently announced that it would field two race-prepped CTS-V Coupes in the SCCA’s American World Challenge, billed as “North America’s top production-based race-car series.”

It’s the logical next step for the brand, albeit one that has payed mixed dividends in the recent past. Cadillac developed LMP racers that ran in ALMS events and the 24 Hours of Le Mans beginning in 2000, but high costs helped put an end to that experiment after the 2002 racing season. During that period, the Cadillac race cars never finished higher than ninth in the endurance classic, although teams scored a number of podium finishes (but no wins) in the ALMS series. I can again provide some inside insight here, as I was at GM at this time, and there was a fair amount of bitterness at having to give up on Cadillac’s goal of eventually racking up an overall win at Le Mans—which was supposed to remind people that the brand was still the “Standard of the World.”

Folks were mollified when the CTS-V Sedan competed very successfully in the SCCA World Challenge from 2004-2007, collecting the manufacturer’s title in 2005 and 2007 as well as the driver’s championship in 2005, the last coming courtesy of pilot Andy Pilgrim. Unfortunately, 2007 also happened to mark the beginning of the global economic meltdown, which put a long-term damper on many OEMs’ motorsports efforts.

Flash-forward to today, and with money a bit looser, Cadillac is gearing up for the 2011 season by working with Pratt & Miller—a company that was a vital contributor to the performance of the CTS-V sedan racer and a long-time partner on GM’s highly successful Team Corvette efforts—and putting Pilgrim back in the driver’s seat of one of the new cars; also getting a chair will be Johnny O’Connell, a former mainstay of the Corvette racing program and a multiple class winner in the ‘Vette at Le Mans.

The SCCA World Challenge kicks off in St. Petersburg, Fla., during the weekend of March 25-27.

Now, factory participation in motorsports has become a somewhat iffy proposition here in the U.S., but this is mostly because of the NASCAR situation, where you’ve got OEMs flushing away hundreds of millions of dollars to support a style of racing that has almost zero relevance on the current automotive scene. When you get down to brass tacks, NASCAR is essentially about racing mainstream family sedans like the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Camry. Even if the actual race cars bore some resemblance to their production versions this would be a hard sell, but with almost no relation between the two at all, it’s virtually impossible.

But for Cadillac (and Corvette), it’s a different story. Especially when you’re looking at the V Series or the Corvette ZR1/ Z06, you’re looking at what are essentially street-legal race cars. Here, people can talk about the technology transfer between track and street with a straight face, and a case can be made that the races really are akin to hi-po driving tests.

Which is why, despite Cadillac’s checkered history in motorsports, I hope we see the CTS-V coupe take some checkered flags come next year.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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