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Johnny O's Thoughts


Well-known member
Feb 1, 2008
2009 GT1 Championship Edition
From Badvoyvettes.com:

Leave it to Johnny O'Connell to answer a few questions the way he races - Total commitment / True Johnny. Hit this link to read Johnny's thoughts on racing Corvette, hanging with the CR team, and a few comments to you BBV Fans.

Thanks again, JO for the time to write this. For everything you've done.

The Johnny O'Connell BadBoyVettes Chat:

BBV - So, we know you came from the 'fuu-fuu' [ha!] world of open-wheel Atlantics [we know! ......Champion!] and then you found yourself in these big-grunt GT Sportscars [Panoz, Nissan, and finally, the Corvette]. So, what was that transition like from open-wheel to big cars?

JO - Changing to sportscars was not that hard of a transition. You just need to get used to the mass. The 1st big car I drove, and the rules at the time - the Nissan 300ZX - had way more power, as it was in the high 700hp area.

But, from the first time I raced at Daytona... and then Sebring... I was hooked on it.

BBV - The first time in the Corvette, what were you thinking the first time you rolled out of the pits?

JO - That was actually at the 2001 Daytona 24hr that both the Earnhardts did. Having come from the prototypes, all I could think was how the car DIDN'T stop well in comparison. Or corner well or accelerate! Very slow motion.

But, then it was hilarious at a press deal hearing big E saying how great the car stopped, cornered, and accelerated.... Made me wonder how bad a Cup car was.

The Corvette, at that point, was nowhere even close to how good the car has become over the past 10 years.

BBV - What caught your attention from the Corvette racecar, from the experience?

JO - The team. They were all so focused and dedicated to building a winning team. Everyone worked so well together, no internal politics, and you knew you had all the tools to win.

BBV - How has that feeling / sensation of driving the C6R changed over time?

JO - Over time the car has become much more like a prototype. The change to Michelin tires was massive, but also the improvements in the engine department and aero has made it a very nimble car with just incredible braking.

BBV - Starting out in racing, did you think you were being a 'badboy' racing cars?

JO - Since I was like 7, I always knew what I wanted to do. I actually chose my college as it would allow me to continue racing karts. There was probably a bit of a time in my early career where I was cocky and arrogant.

But, soon I realized I didn't need that attitude to still win races and as a matter of fact, being more outgoing and approachable has been helpful in my career.

BBV - How did your friends react? Did they see you as a 'badboy' guy?

JO - My friends have always been supportive. And with them, I'm pretty much as I've always been.

BBV - When was the 1st time you realized chicks dig racecar drivers? And how was that first validated? !!!

JO - I think it must be the suit or something! Or that you're doing something exciting. I would say the 1st time I was aware of it, was my 1st race at Long Beach in 1986. Girls that I knew would NEVER talk to me in a bar, would flirt.

BBV - You are known for your controlled aggression-style of driving - eg- 'Go for it', with a plan. Can you think of a balls-out moment in the Corvette during any race that would define a JO 'badboy' move / action / decision?

JO - I think for every driver there are times when you are just in 'the Zone' and no one is going to stop you. There have been so many in the vette, but one that comes to mind was at Lime Rock several years ago when we were battling the Astons. I had Thomas Enge in front of me trying to keep me back. I finally forced my way by him and was running down Pedro Lamy at over a second a lap. I caught him on the last lap and finished maybe a foot behind him. Another lap and we would have won, but that was a good race.

There were other times, like Le Mans in 2002. I was behind Johnny Mowlem in the Saleen. He was about to go a lap down on us but rather than just forcing by, I put a few fake moves on him and really had him hitting curbs and missing gears. After about 2 laps, he pulled over as he had wrecked their car trying to keep me back and had to get it fixed. That was one of those situations where using my head was a good move.

BBV - Seems the Corvette team guys and you have a bond. Share with us a 'badboy' team moment that we have yet to have heard about? You ARE asked to keep the story below X-rated, pls!

JO - As a team, we've had many great moments. From times at a bar, to having the team out to my lake house....where Brian Hoye managed to run one of my jet skis into my neighbor's dock [sorry BH! / sorry neighbor].

But, most memorable would be the times the drivers visited our Troops both in Italy and the Arabian Gulf. Seeing the dedication of our armed services was inspiring to us all.

BBV - About the Cadillac transition, how / when were you told of the move to Cadillac?

JO - I had an inkling that there might be a change around Mosport. At the end of the day, I'm a factory driver for GM, and if they want me to race the Volt for them, well that's what I'll do. Knowing Cadillac had their eyes on me for awhile, is certainly flattering and I just hope I can do for them what I was able to help do with the Corvette.

BBV - What is your role with Corvette now? Will you still be at Corvette races?

JO - My focus needs to be Cadillac now, so I will not have any connection with Corvette Racing and don't see myself going to any races. That said, I know my legacy in racing will always be most closely associated with the Corvette and no matter what will always be a Corvette guy... and know I'm always home with Corvette owners.

BBV - What would you like to say to the BadBoyVettes fans?

JO - To everyone at Badboyvette, I would just like to say thanks for what has been an amazing time in my life, sharing an appreciation for what is one of the world's greatest cars. The friends and fans I've made are for life. Without them... and Corvette Racing... I would never have set the records I have at Le Mans, Sebring, and the ALMS.

I will miss strapping on that #3 car and sharing it with Jan, who is one of the best guys in the world! But, now I look forward to notching up more wins and championships for Cadillac.

- Johnny

BADBOYVETTES.COM - Johnny O 's Thoughts

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