"In 2001, I won the pole position in the wet and won the race in the dry, so it was a really good event for me," Papis recalled. "The next year at Portland was my last Champ Car race because the team I was with had financial problems and had to shut down. Now going back to Portland with Team Cadillac, nothing would be better than standing again on that podium. I felt really comfortable on the top step!"
Papis likes Team Cadillac's chances on the fast and flat 1.94-mile road course.
"The circuit will suit the SPEED GT cars well because of the long straightaway that will definitely allow overtaking," he noted. "The infield section requires a lot of technique, and I know my way around there. It's a track with a long racing tradition and the fans are very knowledgeable. I feel really good going back to Portland."
After seven rounds of the 11-race series, Team Cadillac driver Andy Pilgrim leads the drivers championship with 163 points, while Papis is fifth in the standings with 126 points. The silver lining in the dark cloud that dogged the team in the previous race in Sonoma, Calif., is that both drivers will carry less REWARDS weight in Portland. Pilgrim shed 20 pounds after an eighth-place finish at Infineon Raceway, reducing his burden to 190 pounds. Papis will carry 60 pounds of success ballast after finishing 21st at Infineon Raceway, the result of being hit by Tommy Archer's Viper on the sixth lap. Archer was subsequently penalized by SCCA officials for the contact in Turn 7 that left Papis with a flat tire and a damaged rear suspension.
It was the second time in three races that there was hard contact between the two cars.
"I think he is using my rear bumper as a braking point," Papis observed wryly. "I forgave him the first time because maybe he made a mistake. But the second time, it's not a mistake I would expect from a professional race car driver."
"It was an amazing effort by the Team Cadillac crew to fix Max's car and get him back out on the track," noted GM Racing program manager Dave Spitzer. "The team understood that the SCCA rules required Max to finish at least half the race distance in order to lose REWARDS weight for the next round. There wasn't a moment's hesitation when the car arrived in the pits. They replaced the lower control arm under green-flag conditions and Max completed the required distance with time to spare. Crew chief Dave Albright and mechanics Dave Marin and Dave Matte knew what had to be done, and they did it perfectly."
Papis is not the only Team Cadillac driver with a winning record in Portland. His teammate Andy Pilgrim scored the second victory of his professional racing career at PIR in 1986, and notched wins there 1988 and 1993. John Heinricy, director of GM Performance Division, will wheel Team Cadillac's third CTS-V at PIR; his first win at the Oregon track was in 1988.
Heinricy will make his second appearance of the season with Team Cadillac. He started on the front row and finished as runner-up at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in April.
"My gut feeling is that the Portland track will suit the Cadillacs' strengths," Heinricy said. "It has flowing medium-speed turns, and I think that is where the Cadillac CTS-V excels. The competition in the series is intense, and the Corvettes and Porsches will certainly be strong. I'm up for the challenge and looking forward to representing GM again."
While Papis and Heinricy were preparing for their return to PIR, Pilgrim was giving thrill rides at Car and Driver magazine's 50th birthday bash at Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 23-24. Originally scheduled for three half-hour sessions to give the magazine's readers a taste of the race-prepared CTS-V's capabilities, Pilgrim put in eight hard hours on an improvised oval/infield road course at the 5/8-mile track.
"We definitely had the fastest car on the track," reported Pilgrim, who drove Team Cadillac's specially outfitted two-seater race car. "Most of my riders were screaming when we pulled out of the pits, but they'd get real quiet when I'd slide the car toward the wall at 125 mph.
"It was 103 degrees in Indy, and it felt like doing eight hours of a 24-hour race with absolutely no cooling," he added. "It was a great workout for me and a great time for more than 100 enthusiasts."
The 50-minute SPEED GT race at the Portland Grand Prix will start at 5:25 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 31. The race will be televised on the SPEED Channel on Sunday, August 7, at 3 p.m. EDT.