Cadillac Challenge Round 8 presented by Toyo Tires @ Buttonwillow 9-23-12

Buttonwillow, CA September 23rd, 2012. – The latest installment of the Cadillac Challenge, presented by Toyo Tires saw the series shift back up to Buttonwillow Raceway. However there was a little surprise to be had once the drivers unloaded onto the paddock. Track officials decided to run the configuration backwards in the #1 CCW. So this means everything the drivers learned at the same track during round 6 was thrown out the window. Braking points, track markers, turn in spots, were all completely different now. How could the driver stay faster than their respective competitors all the while learning the quickest way around the extremely technical course?

On a course that is typically favorable for the smaller more agile cars, the Cadillac Challenge hosted another event that will continue defy the concept that these Cadillac vehicles cannot be just as agile and fluid as the smaller more nimble cars. Looking at the configuration of the track, it was immediately noticeable that the lines and entries were completely different compared to the standard configuration. In the new configuration, turns that were once tight decreasing radius turns were suddenly nice long sweepers. On top of the mental challenge the new configuration presented, heat was also present at a simmering 99 degrees.

The C1 Class opened the day with some of the usual suspects already hitting the track for their practice session. What is typically used as a shakedown session and sometimes a stage for a little bit of gamesmanship, session 1 opened with a few interesting twists. The perennial C1 Class juggernaut point’s leader Steve Collins and his Matte Black CTS-V F22 Coupe hit the track first. But it came with a cost. A mechanical failure immediately sidelined Steve. Despite efforts of pitside mechanics on hand they were unable to resolve the situation. This was considered a major event on the Cadillac Challenge paddock. The door was wide open at that time for the other C1 competitors. C1 drivers Ben G. and his beautiful thunder grey CTS-V sedan was a late entry to the event and was looking to get quickly familiar to the Cadillac Challenge. He was joined by newcomer Brian N. and his equally beautiful CTS-V Coupe. Both drivers were new to the series but they were looking to pick up the pace pretty quickly. Then there was the entry from Stacey Leitner, the Cadillac Challenges only female driver to date, and her red CTS-V sedan. She was joined by Matt Martin as they were splitting driving time with the slick looking CTS-V Sedan. As all the drivers started to find their lines around the track, they quickly figured out just how far they could push their CTS-V’s without crossing the threshold. Their speed & pace was impressive for showroom stock cars. As the day wore on and the track started to soak with heat, the drivers made their adjustments to their lines, braking points, and tire pressures. The track was flush with Cadillac’s and the times were impressive. Ben G. and Brian N. were extremely competitive with each other as they learned their cars and the track. Stacey L and Matt M were also extremely competitive with each other. Stacey logged a quick lap time of 2:36.746 compared to the lap time of 2:25.290 from Matt Martin, good enough for the lead. However in a phenomenal show of sportsmanship, Matt & Stacey handed the key FOB over to fellow competitor and current C1 point’s leader Steve Collins so he could log an official lap time under Cadillac Challenge rules. With a couple of laps in hand Steve C wheeled the red CTS-V sedan to a quick lap time of 2:23.892 to secure the victory and further extend his points lead in the C1 class.

C2 Class was the class that most people were talking about going into the 8th round of the Challenge. There is a massive point’s battle that has been brewing for the better part of the season. Current points leader Richard C and his black CTS-V sedan was on hand looking to extend and protect his points lead from the hard charging Ed Wagner and his white CTS-V Coupe sporting a fresh set of Toyo Tire R888’s. Conspicuously absent from this event was Karim T of Team Special K Racing, all but conceding the 2nd place in points. However Ed was going after the point’s leader Richard C of WPA Racing. As the cars started to hit the track, both drivers were constantly monitoring each other’s times, almost pacing themselves and their equipment. The first shot was fired by Ed Wagner and his CTS-V Coupe, logging an overall best opening session of 2:15.416. That was an amazing time considering he was still learning the track. Richard C of WPA Racing responded with an equally impressive time of 2:16.240 only .800’s behind Ed’s pace. The question was going to come down to who would make the right changes to their driving style and techniques. Who could hone in on the adjustments required to win the event? As the day grew long and the temperatures started to climb. Each driver made their respective adjustments to their cars hoping it would be enough to outdo the other. Session 3 was up and most everyone knew that it was now or never. Ed Wagner slid his white CTS-V around the slippery track at Buttonwillow under the scorching sun to a blistering 2:15.188 lap time. Clearly taking notice of the pace in which he needed to match to have a chance of clinching a round 8 victory, Richard C took to the track to try and best the time laid down by Ed W. With the rubber on the track still fresh, Richard C willed his CTS-V Sedan to a 2:14.904 lap time. As a driver it is important to know your limitations when pushing your equipment to the edge as well as yourself. After the session 3 flyer, Richard C knew that he had nothing left and if Ed was going to beat him, he clearly earned it as Richard left it all out on the track. To further emphasize that, Richard C and WPA Racing loaded up the car up on the trailer marking an end to his day. The door was open for Ed W to waltz on through if he could manage to make up a 2 tenths difference in lap time. Despite worsening track conditions, Ed pushed forward and continued to take shots at the lap time put down by Richard. Despite a valiant effort, Ed was unable to make up the 2 tenths lead and finally succumbed to Richards eventually winning lap time. With the victory Richard extends his points lead in C2 class and Ed Wagner moves into 2nd place ready to catch Richard if he falters in the Finals.

Class C3, The unlimited class. Last time we checked back with this class was round 7 at California Speedway. We saw just a slight margin of victory for the winner Bob M. of Team HeaVyweight Racing of Gary Torres and D3’s Team Legionnaire. The question going into this weekend’s event was how close the margin of victory was going to be when the dust settled. Well before the dust can even get kicked up, Team HeaVyweight racing had a setback in the practice sessions the day before. Gary Torres was unable to make the event with his menacing track only CTS-V Competition Sedan. Bob and his team was working throughout the day to get the car back on the track to log a quick time for the day. The scene was reminiscent of Will Powers team trying to his car back together again after his crash at California Speedway during the Indy Car race. Meanwhile D3’s Team Legionnaire piloted by James Gill was on the track trying to get a lay of the land. After his initial shakedown passes they quickly made their adjustments to the suspension and their tire pressures on the super sticky R888 Toyo Tires. James put down an opening session time of 2:18.178. Once he got a lay of the land, he started to shave time off until he logged a 2:14.828 lap time. Not content with that lap time, he finished the final session with a 2:14.538 marking his best lap time of the day. However, D3 Team Legionnaire was not alone on the track. In a symbolic showing of grit and determination, Bob Michaels of Team HeaVyweight racing was on the track trying to put together an official lap. During testing the prior day, Bob was running 2:15.620’s. Looking to better that time he was unable to complete a qualifying lap capping a rough weekend. One would have to say that Team HeaVyweight racing showed no sign of quit and just seeing the car on track again had to be considered a victory.

As the Cadillac Challenge enters into the series Finale, Round 9 at Willow Springs Raceway in December, we are reminded that this is still an ultra competitive series that is diverse in its overall performance and driver skill set levels. But what we saw this weekend was a group that has bonded throughout the season and has shown great sportsmanship and respect for the sport. It is a given that these cars are fast and handle really well if properly prepared. It’s great to see that the bond that these Cadillac vehicle owners have and their passion for the Cadillac Challenge. We look forward to catching back up with the series when it resumes for the finale in December. Until then, happy motoring!!