Cadillac eyes worldwide racing expansion

Cadillac Racing, in the middle of its second year as part of the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge, is eying an expansion of its racing involvement in other parts of the world.

“We’d like to be able to race in China, we’d like to be able to race in Eastern Europe, and there are a number of series that allow you to do that," James Vurpillat, global marketing manager for Cadillac, told the Free Press today at Belle Isle in Detroit.

Cadillac, which was involved in racing prior to General Motors’ bankruptcy in 2009, was forced to cease all racing activities for several years as the automaker recovered.

But Mark Reuss, GM’s president of North America, wanted to get Cadillac back onto the race track as quickly as possible after the company emerged from bankruptcy, Vurpillat said.

With just nine months of preparation, Cadillac Racing returned to the track in 2011 to participate in the SCCA World Challenge. The World Challenge is holding two races in Detroit at Belle Isle this weekend that are supporting the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix.

The racing series requires cars to resemble production vehicles. About 80% of the parts in Cadillac’s race car are the same as the parts in the Cadillac V production cars, Vurpillat said. Cadillac competes against brands such as Porsche, Nissan and Volvo.

That close resemblance to production cars is important to Cadillac, Vurpillat said, because it helps to convince race fans that the performance on the track is related to the performance on the road. In fact, Cadillac will consider racing leagues similar to the World Challenge as considers additional racing activities.

“As we go on to expand the brand, the cornerstone of Cadillac will be performance…so as we go into those markets we will look for avenues to show that performance and show those credentials," Vurpillat said.

For brands like Cadillac, motorsports provides an ideal place to connect with enthusiasts and to prove to others that the cars they sell are among the best in the world.

To do that, Cadillac sponsors a car corral at racing venues like Belle Isle so Cadillac owners can park at the venue, have access to food and can meet members of the Cadillac Racing team.

It costs Cadillac owners $250 for today to participate in the corral for one day and $350 for both days.

Grady Petrovski, 42, of Dallas, Texas, drove his Cadillac CTS-V wagon 18 hours to get to Detroit.

“I got in yesterday and I came to Belle Isle right away," said Petrovski, who grew up in Farmington Hills but moved to Texas in 2000.

Petrovski came to Belle Isle Saturday with his father, Zlate Petrovski, who retired from GM in 2006. He is planning to return Sunday with his wife and children.

Both Grady and Zlate Petrovski said they view the races at Belle Isle as good for both Cadillac and for the city of Detroit.

“It’s a nice area," said Zlate Petrovski, 67. “You can see the GM building from here and there are nice visuals."

Kevin Monticello, drove his 1999 Chevrolet Corvette from Pleasant Lake to participate in Corvette’s car corral.

“It’s sort of my way of paying GM back," Monticello whose father worked for GM. “GM fed me and raised me."

Monticello, an avid motorsports fan, attends a number of races every year but said Belle Isle is among the best locations he has been to.

“It’s great for Detroit. It’s an excellent venue," Monticello said. “It puts Detroit in a great light and I don’t think the city gets much positive attention." Detroit Free Press

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