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COOPER: Climbing the Mountain

Blackdog Racing’s Michael Cooper files his first Sportscar365 column of season after Pirelli GT4 America opener…

Photo: Fred Hardy/SRO

“You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So get on your way!”
— Dr. Seuss

That’s a pretty good assessment of what’s in store for me and the rest of Blackdog Racing this year in SRO America.

We’ve taken on a new challenge this year in Pirelli GT4 America, which traditionally has been one of the toughest categories in SRO. Lots of competitors and lots of cars from lots of manufacturers. A big mountain that’s waiting, indeed, but there are great places and days ahead for us…

Tony Gaples and I are back together this season after a couple of years of me being away from the Blackdog team, with which I’ve been lucky to win multiple GT4 drivers, teams and manufacturers championships since I got into GT racing in 2014.

I’m really happy to be back with them because (1) it’s a group of really smart and experienced people who know how to win and (2) they’re just a fun, fun group to be part of.

Both of those are going to help us this year with our move to Nissan and the Nissan Z NIMSO GT4. We took delivery of our car in late February and we were able to complete a preseason test for both Tony and me to get acclimated to the car.

Photo: Fred Hardy/SRO

The platform has been in development for the last couple of seasons, and I’m optimistic about its potential.

The GT4 landscape is pretty crowded and competitive but I’ve been impressed so far with what the Nissan and NISMO support program has done to help so far.

If you’re reading this, you already know some of the challenges the series and Sonoma Raceway faced. It didn’t do much to help our learning curve with the new car and new series.

Part of that process is trying to get familiar not just with the Nissan but also our competitors – not just the teams but identifying drivers and their tendencies on-track.

That’s valuable information to know when we are either trying to overtake or defend in a race. It will take time, but it’s another mountain for us to challenge.

The results were decent but still somewhat disappointing.

Our biggest issue in the first race is that we didn’t calibrate our pitlane speed limiter quite right, so a drive-through penalty halted the momentum we did have. The start for Race Two was tricky with some traffic problems, but that happens at Sonoma.

So in a nod to how we started this, now the team moves on to the next great place, the next day and the next mountain: Sebring in just a couple of weeks.

Michael Cooper (@MSCooper1) is a four-time SRO Motorsports America champion, driving for Blackdog Racing in Pirelli GT4 America.

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