Cadillac Challenge Round 5, Willow Springs Intl’ Raceway – presented by Toyo Tires and D3

The Cadillac Challenge – Round 5 Willow Springs International Raceway

Rosamond, CA June 2nd, 2012. Welcome to the Wild Wild West. Willow Springs International Raceway, Home of the Fastest Track in the West Coast. Based on the average lap speed, by definition they are correct. What will that mean when the Cadillac Challenge presented by Toyo Tires rolls onto the grid? Surely the 4200 lbs luxury sedans would have to slow up a bit for some of highest speed turns the challenge has seen to date, right? Let’s find out.

For those of you that are familiar with Willow Springs International Raceway, you already know what the deal is with Turn 8 & 9. For those that don’t know about those turns, let’s just say it will increase the pucker factor immediately! You see those turns are typically taken at an extreme speeds in properly setup vehicles. It takes a great deal of nerve to enter those turns at speed. If you are chasing quick lap times, you don’t touch the brakes going into Turn 8. If you have the attachments to do that then you are ready for Turn 9. You need heavy braking and quick setup so you can get through 9 without going off track. If you go off at 9, don’t feel bad, it’s taken out a lot of people that thought they could tackle it too.

So now that you have a general lay of the land, what would be expected by a dozen or so full bodied Cadillac’s at this venue? Coming into the event, point’s leader in class C1, Steve Collins and his Matte Black CTS-V coupe was looking to hold off all comers at Willow Springs. His old foe Ed Wagner and his White CTS-V Coupe were at the track as well looking to stir up some trouble. However Ed threw a curve ball at this event and jumped up to class C2, meaning him and Steve C are no longer in the same class. Looks like Steve C will have clear sailing this round, right? Enter Rex Rexford and his well equipped Cadillac CTS-V first generation Sedan. In addition to the entry of Rex, there was another first Generation CTS-V from Jarrod Weymar. This was a highly modified black CTS-V that came ready to play by the looks of it. Sam Lollar and his high horsepower 2009 CTS-V Silver Sedan also came to play. But more importantly he was out to defend his point’s position in the class. Unfortunately mechanical difficulties kept Sam from being able to log any laps on Saturday. He was able to get some testing completed the day before and his times were once again very respectable and would have put him in the hunt to defend his point’s position. The blazing hot conditions would prove to be a formidable foe throughout the day. The sinister looking Sedan from Jarrod W had issues with his power steering, thus cutting his day short. But before he left the track for good, he managed a best track time of 1:50.296. The battle of attrition would leave Rex R going toe to toe with point’s leader Steve C and his coupe. During the first session of the day Rex R dropped a 1:44.248 lap time to establish his base. Taking advantage of the cooler morning temperatures was key. Steve C didn’t waste any time and laid down a 1:39.191 lap time in the first session. Hedging on the fact that it would continue to get hotter throughout the day, Rex R now knew what he needed to do.

As the temperatures started to rise and the track started to get slippery, all the drivers knew that it would only become more difficult to find the edge of adhesion for these full bodied Cadillacs. Relying on their sticky Toyo Tires all drivers pushed their cars to the limits. Rex pushed and pushed throughout the day. There were a few times we noticed he was sideways looking to shave a few tenths off his lap time. Steve C continued the attempt to reduce his lap times. To no avail he couldn’t improve on his session 1 time of 1:39.191. The question now was how Rex R would finish the day. Pushing his way around the track, session 4 came to a close for Rex and his CTS-V with a 1:39.965 lap time. The margin of victory was .774 seconds, Steve C and his CTS-V Coupe for the win. Steve increases his points lead in the C1 class. But it would appear that Rex will continue to push Steve for the second half of the season. The runner up finish for Rex pulls him into a tie with Sam Lollar for 2nd in the points going into Round 6 of the Cadillac Challenge.

The wild wild west portion of the Cadillac Challenge presented by Toyo Tires comes courtesy of class C2. With all the usual suspects ready to play at this fast track, it was going to be exciting. Coming off of a fresh victory at Infineon, it appeared Richard C of WPA Racing was going have his way with the field. His aggressive driving technique and brutal braking would be tested at Willow. Rich’s black CTS-V entered the event second in points and poised to make a run at points leader Karim T with his Team Special K CTS-V Sedan. Team Special K’s points lead comes from consistency and pace. Relying on the Toyo R888’s both drivers started off the day trying to find the line that worked best for them at Willow Springs. Opening shots were fired with WPA Racing’s lap time of 1:43.837 and Team Special K’s 1:43.942 in the first session. Both drivers were separated by a little more than a tenth of a second at the close of session 1. What sounded like an echo was actually a second shot fired by Ed Wagner and his white CTS-V coupe. Class C2 newcomer immediately put the two front runners on notice as this now just turned into a three car tango. Ed wasn’t the only new entry into C2. The series debut was made by Hector L and his highly modified CTS-V Silver Sedan. Hector was relying on his big power and modified suspension to get him around the track quickly. As he learned the track throughout the day, he was able to turn a best lap time of 1:54.607. Look for Hector to continue his push for pace as he starts to understand the C2 class of the Cadillac Challenge.

As the day wore on each driver made their adjustments to their driving techniques, air pressures, and braking points. Who was going to push their Cadillac’s the furthest to secure the top time for the weekend? Every driver was already aware of the demons that loom in turn 8 & 9. But if you wanted to win today it was clear what needed to be done by these Cadillac’s. Karim T and his Thunder Grey CTS-V Sedan motored to an impressive 1:41.021 lap time, beating his previous time by almost 3 full seconds. Ed Wagner & Rich C knew that if they had any chance of besting the time set forth by Karim, they had to pucker up in some of the high speed turns and carry more speed or watch Karim drive away with the victory. In the final session of the day Rich C and his WPA Racing CTS-V powered his way to a 1:39.752 lap time for what appeared to be a clear victory to take his second C2 win of the season. Not to be out done, Ed Wager put together a flying lap that might have even caught him by surprise when the times were announced. Clearly finding the limits of what he could do with his setup; Ed managed a 1:38.364 lap time for the shocking victory over Rich C and his WPA Racing entry. However it should be noted that although the victory in C2 is unexpected, Ed has always shown great driving talent that allowed him to be extremely competitive in C1. The additional upgrades, which the D3 Group did to his CTS-V Coupe in preparation to this race and fresh Toyo R888, paid off immediately with a class victory over the classes two front runners. As always the C2 Class delivers entertainment with unexpected results. Karim T will enter Buttonwillow Raceway with the lead in C2 with Rich C drawing ever closer occupying the 2nd place position. Lets see if Ed W can continue his recent success for the remainder of the season now that he is in C2.

The wild boys of the west were next up. Class C3 always shows off the most highly modified Cadillacs the Challenge has to offer. Team HeaVyweight Racing’s matte black CTS-V Sedan piloted by Bob Michaels was back on track coming off of his victory at Infineon Raceway a few weeks ago. Out to increase their pace, D3’s entry Team Legionnaire piloted by James Gill, made a few changes looking for more on track speed. As these two heavy hitters navigated the slower traffic on track they were both looking to establish their base times in the cooler morning sessions. Watching the two cars on track it was clear they both came to play, each expecting to be victorious by day’s end. The speed in which they were entering Turn 8 was a sight to behold. Looking like the cars would fly off track, they were using their Toyo tires to their maximum grip to ensure they stick like glue. Fresh out of the trailer, Bob M and his Team HeaVyweight Racing CTS-V matte black Sedan, cruised around the track during the first session laying down a 1:44.484 lap time. Initially it appeared that the vehicles pace would need to improve if he expected to secure the C3 class victory. But Bob M is a seasoned vet and later sessions proved he was holding back a bit. In session 2 the winged CTS-V sedan mustered up a 1:41.274 lap time, shaving more than 3 seconds off his 1st sessions best lap time. The Legionnaire team didn’t seem to be phased by the perceived lack of pace by their rivals. Seemingly marching to their own beat, the D3 CTS-V Coupe whipped around the track to a session 1 best lap time of 1:40.905. This was more than 3.5 seconds quicker than Team HeaVyweights CTS-V coming off the trailer. This might explain the sudden increase in Bob’s pace during the 2nd session as he shaved his times back. Like a game of Texas hold-em, both drivers seemed to increase the stakes. As Bob made his adjustments and increased his pace for session 2, he looked at the times to see that Team Legionnaire posted a 1:38.848 lap time. It was clear that Bob had to shave even more time off of his session 2’s quickest lap time if he was going to keep pace. The next two sessions were shaping up to be wild to say the least.

The next two sessions saw these two heavy hitters lined up together. Seeming like it was gamesmanship the two were going to battle it out right next to each other, most likely thinking that the added pressure will cause the other to make a mistake. Game on! Watching these two fierce competitors duke it out on the track looked like a clip from Days of Thunder. With Bob’s CTS-V Sedan no more than a few inches away from the rear bumper of James’ CTS-V Coupe going down the front straightaway at well over 140MPH. Keeping with the adage that Cadillacs don’t bump, the two were mindful of eachother, but still danced only inches away from each other for several laps. No brake checks or bump and runs here, just good old fashion clean driving at high speeds around the fastest track on the west coast, Willow Springs. Keep in mind that the D3 Legionnaire is a fire breathing machine and that it most likely cooked the front end of Team HeaVyweight’s CTS-V Sedan, it was a classic sight to behold. Once the smoke cleared, the times were reviewed. Margin of victory was 1.7 seconds for his second victory in a row, Bob Michaels & Team HeaVyweight Racing. He turned in a 1:37.081 lap time on his fresh Toyo RS1 Slicks compared to James Gill & Team Legionnaires time of 1:38.848 lap time. The victory pads the lead for Bob as he still holds a commanding lead in class C3. But the gap has been closed in terms of performance and pace on the racetrack. The second half of the season promises to be just as exciting, if not more, than the first half.

As round 5 comes to an end, we have seen incredible performance and pace out of these full bodied Cadillac’s. As a group it is amazing to see the overall pace of each class and their competitors. Willow Springs International Raceway has served as another great venue for the Cadillac Challenge presented by Toyo Tires. Clearly these competitors were up to the challenge of taking on the west coasts fastest track. We look forward to seeing the second half of the season and understand that the series will now include (3) Cadillac Challenge races on the east coast this year. Keep checking for additional updates and news. Happy motoring.