Cadillac may not be the first automaker that comes to mind when you think about motorsports, but the company proved rather successful when it competed in the Sports Car Club of America World Challenge. After a four year absence, the American luxury automaker is returning to the series this year with a race-prepped CTS-V Coupe.
Cadillac first entered the series in 2004 and competed until 2007 — the second-generation CTS was introduced in 2008 — with race-prepped, first-generation CTS-Vs. The cars proved extremely successful in the GT class as Cadillac won both the driver’s and manufacturer’s championship in 2005 and took the manufacturer’s championship again in 2007.
“Returning to racing in the SCCA World Challenge is a great way to demonstrate the performance and capability of the CTS-V Coupe,” said Don Butler, vice president for Cadillac marketing. “The racecars in this series are production based, which allows us to validate our performance against the best of our competitors on the track and not just the showroom.”
Unlike some racing series that feature extreme cars, completely different from anything in production today, the SCCA World Championship features all production-based cars. While the cars may be production based — Cadillac’s racing director Mark Kent says roughly 80-percent of the CTS-V racer is stock — but it still sees significant changes in order to become a competitive racecar. To help this transformation to all-out racer, General Motors teamed up with the engineering experts at Pratt & Miller.
With the engineering firm’s help, Cadillac significantly lightened the car, designed and installed safety measures to meet SCCA regulations, revised the engine for SCCA regulations, and added a full aerodynamic package. One of the first weight savings measures taken was to completely strip out the interior — replacing the dash with a lightweight carbon fiber unit that houses the racing gauges, ripping out every seat and installing only a Recaro driver’s seat, and even drilling and punching the main pillars to shave a few pounds and add strength. All the glass has also been replaced with lightweight Lexan for safety as well as weight savings.
Of course the CTS-V Coupe racecar has to meet all SCCA safety and design regulations. As such, it features a full roll-cage and fire suppression system. Design regulations include limitations on bodywork and engine changes. SCCA regulations would normally only allow Cadillac to install the vented, carbon-fiber hood and carbon-fiber decklid on the racer, but in order to make the car more competitive, the SCCA approved Cadillac’s request to replace all the body panels with carbon fiber units. The added, downforce-producing front-lip spoiler, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser are also made of the composite material.
Full powertrain modifications — for obvious reasons — have not been revealed, but the CTS-V racer retains a 6.2-liter V-8, but ditches the supercharger per SCCA regulations. Cadillac is working with the SCCA so it can run a supercharged engine in the near future. The normally-aspirated engine is coupled to an Xtrac, six-speed, sequential manual transmission. Despite being an all-out racecar, the racer actually produces less power than its road-going sibling. In order to comply with SCCA regulations power output has been toned down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 horsepower. With the CTS-V racecar’s new 3100 pound weight, some 900+ pounds less than the stock CTS-V Coupe, 550 horsepower should be more than enough to make the CTS-V racer competitive.
Another change the SCCA required Cadillac to make was to the rear suspension. Cadillac originally planned on racing a version of its Magnetic Ride Control, but the SCCA wouldn’t allow it. Instead, GM and Pratt & Miller developed a bespoke rear suspension for the car. However, like the supercharged engine, Cadillac is currently working with the SCCA to allow for a racing version of the Magnetic Ride Control.
GM will field two CTS-V teams in the World Challenge this year, with Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O’Connell behind the wheel. Andy Pilgrim drove for Cadillac when the brand last competed in the SCCA World Challenge. He was in fact the man who drove Cadillac to the top step of the podium in the 2005 manufacturer’s championship, taking the driver’s championship in the process. Johnny O’Connell signed from Corvette Racing, having won the GT1 championship in the American Le Mans Series three times and the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in the GT1 category.
Cadillac’s first racecar in four years takes to the track for the first time in late January where it will undergo testing before the SCCA season kicks off on March 25 in St. Petersburg, Florida.