February 26th, 2012 marked the first of 9 races in a newly formed Cadillac Challenge Series. By now everyone knows that Cadillac has changed their products to reflect a new standard for luxury performance vehicles. In case you have been living under a rock the last ten years, the sweet sound of supercharged V8’s roaring around the racetrack combined with the luxury and grace of a Cadillac is quickly becoming the norm around the country. However in Southern California, birthplace of the American hot rod, there is a new series that focuses exclusively on track worthy Cadillac factory hot rods.
Welcome to the Cadillac Challenge, Round 1. As Saturday rolled around, most competitors started shaking their cars down and getting a feel for the track again. Some of the heavy hitters were already on the track getting their cars ready for Sunday’s big showdown. Alan & Marc of CTSVRACING.COM flew out from New York and were out testing a new combination in their CTS-V. Team Heavyweight Racing was also on track getting their new combination dialed in for the big race. Saturday even witnessed the return of Leonard Renick of Renick Cadillac behind the wheel of the Renick Motorsports Team CTS-V Wagon. Yes, a wagon! With a couple of early front runners on track it was shaping up to be an exciting event leading into Sundays point race.
Sunday marked a new day. With a full day of testing under the belt the times started to drop across the board. In the C1 class there we a few astonishing times that were being set as the morning session came to a close. Steve Collins and his 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and Edward Wagoner in his CTS-V Coupe were going toe to toe throughout the day. It was clear these two came to play. But there was stiff competition in this class as Sam Lollar, Richard Caleel, James Renick, and David Little all showed great pace and incredible speed throughout the early sessions. In the final session Steve Collins edged out the competition with a 4th session best of 2:00.392 lap time. Steve’s smooth driving style and superb lines outpaced the high horsepower entries from the other competitors. Look for this class to continue deliver a high diversity of entries, cars, and driving styles throughout the season.
In the C2 class the bar was raised immediately with almost all drivers running sub 2:00.00 lap times in the opening session. Not bad for a cold track. As drivers tried to carve their way through the slower traffic and log some quick times we saw some pretty aggressive driving. These Cadillacs came to play, evident of the German vehicles they were passing and disposing of throughout the session. It was shaping up to be an epic battle. The D3 CTS-V Coupe was forced to retire after the first session, but not before Team Legionnaire, piloted by James Gill, set the pace for the class with a 1:57 lap time on their initial shake down runs. That time was quickly backed up by Alan Cohen in the CTSVRACING.COM entry with a 1:58 lap time. The dark horse in this class was an entry from Karim T. and his 2010 Cadillac CTS-V Sedan registering several sub 2 minute laps. Karim was very familiar with the track as he has posted 1:56 lap times in previous visits to Autoclub Speedway in his D3 prepped sedan. In the final session Alan Cohen of CTSVRACING.COM pulled off a narrow victory over the entry from Karim. Not only were they close in lap times, but they were very close on the track as well. The two were going at it so aggressively they almost traded paint on the final lap. Winning lap time was a 1:57.448 with Karim coming in just 1 second behind him. The C2 class proved to be very close in competition and even closer on the track. These cars aren’t just really fast, they are incredibly nimble and it is evident by how they do away with the slower unfortunate cars that get in their way on the track.
C3 class witnessed the season debut of Team Heavyweight Racing’s 2010 CTS-V Sedan. They have been hard at work getting the car ready for the season. It was clear that just on looks alone Team Heavyweight Racing was going to be the standard of the class. Bob Michaels, The V Pilot, immediately set the tone by logging a blistering 1:57 lap time on Toyo Proxes 1 Street Tires! According to Bob, “I was just looking to get the vehicle dialed in with this new aero package. I wanted to see how the car reacted with the suspension & aero.” So, there was hope for the C2 class cars, key word “WAS”. Bob then had the vehicle outfitted with the Toyo R888’s tires and his lap times dropped like a bad economy. Bob managed a few 1:55 laps on the sticky Toyo R888 tires as he flew to victory in the C3 class. At times it seemed like he was just toying with the C2 class as he seemingly was able to put the car anywhere on the track when he wanted. If he is going to be challenged in this class seriously his competitors might want to start taking notice of his overall performance and reliability.
As the event came to a close there was a lot of takeaways from the race. We saw it all at this event. Speed, power, brake fade, drifting, handling, and even air bag deployment. Yes, I said air bag deployment. Have you ever seen an airbag go off without the vehicle getting in a wreck? I’m not talking about what you might see on Jackass The Movie or an episode of Punk’d. We are talking about a massive lateral G – Load so extreme it deployed the curtain air bags and called onstar. The deployment was so loud, safety officials immediately knew what happened as the car pulled off to the side of the track. If this was just the first race of the series, we can’t wait till the next event at Chuckwalla Raceway. Watching these Cadillacs go around the track is a thing of beauty. Happy motoring.