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COOPER: When One Door Closes, Another Opens

Michael Cooper files his first Sportscar365 column after signing for Callaway Competition USA for PWC next year…

Photo: Phierce Photo/Keith Griner

“When one door closes, another opens,” couldn’t be a more perfect depiction for the opportunity that has presented itself for me at Callaway Competition USA in 2018.

Seemingly plucked out of obscurity, I was appointed as a factory driver for General Motors in 2015. I’m fully aware that most people had no idea who I was—and many probably still don’t.

After a season of representing Chevrolet at Blackdog Speedshop in 2015, I spent the next two seasons in GT contending for the championship and making a name for myself with Cadillac Racing.

In my two years with Cadillac Racing, we celebrated five wins, an additional 13 podiums, and one SprintX championship title.

About two weeks after the Pirelli World Challenge season concluded, Cadillac Racing announced the GT program would go into hibernation. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to Mark Kent, Steve Cole, Gary Pratt & Jim Miller for presenting me with such a great opportunity.

Shortly after the announcement from Cadillac, General Motors confirmed to the press that the ban of the C7 GT3-R in North America being lifted. For those unfamiliar, the GT3 spec C7 is a vehicle constructed by Callaway with the approval of General Motors under one caveat: The C7 GT3-R was not to race in North America because Cadillac had constructed their own GT3 car for the states, the ATS-V.R.

Meanwhile, Callaway had already expressed interest in me when they made contact earlier in the year about doing a one-off with their European effort.

While that opportunity didn’t pan out, I had their contact information and knew I was on their radar.

I put a call in to Mike Zoner and waited to hear back. Mike has worked alongside Reeves Callaway for 30 years, and is instrumental in the high quality programs Callaway are known for.

Fast forward a month and I was at SEMA, meeting with Reeves, Mike, and Pete Callaway as they evaluated the possibilities for the 2018 program. So many drivers were in contention for one of the two full time seats, and I’m honored and grateful that Reeves and his team brought me on board to be a part of this effort.

I’m looking forward to contributing to the team with my experience in the GT class, the knowledge I gained from the bright minds at Cadillac Racing, as well as my understanding of the interworkings of PWC, the tracks we’ll be visiting, and the drivers we’ll be competing against.

My teammate, Daniel Keilwitz may be new to every track on the 2017 PWC calendar, but he’s raced the Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R for the last two years and brings with him his own plethora of knowledge that will be incredibly instrumental for our success.

He was an essential part of Callaway Competition’s Team and Manufacturer championship titles, and I’m glad he’s on board for this program.

It can be difficult to start a championship effort with a new car, but the Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R already has a winning resume in Europe with Callaway Competition.

We’ll begin testing soon with the first car, and as I write this, the second car is being built. Our Corvette will be up against some stiff competition, but she’ll bring her own muscle to the fight as well.

Reeves flattered us a bit at the car’s stateside unveiling when he said that the Balance of Performance makes all the cars equal, and that it’s up to the drivers and teams to produce the effort that gets us across the finish line first.

While he’s right, that’s not to underestimate the dependability of what our 6.2L V8 will bring to the table through drivability and efficiency.

After the loss of Cadillac Racing, Wright Motorsports, Magnus Racing, and the factory Acura program with Realtime, some will doubt how many competitive GT cars will be present this year. However, the circle of life continues in racing, and as some teams leave, new teams come in.

I don’t have any concerns over how stacked the grid will be next year. Pirelli World Challenge is still one of the best places that race teams can affordably compete against each other on some of the best race tracks the world has to offer.

The series has been my home for quite a while now, and I’m looking forward to getting the 2018 season started and to be back to work with so many familiar faces. I’m excited for this opportunity to give you fans a touch more insight into what goes into a race weekend and the thoughts that go through a driver’s mind.

For me the 2017 season finished with a weekend sweep at Somona, so I have a winning streak to add to. I’ll be looking to pick up right where I left off, with a couple of wins, when our season begins at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March.

Michael Cooper (@MSCooper1) is a three-time Pirelli World Challenge champion, driving for Callaway Competition USA in the GT class.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sol Shine

    December 24, 2017 at 9:04 am

    BOP is the biggest joke ever. It just allows the series to pick and choose who is a winner. A skeptic might think that would open the door to nefarious conduct, bucks being passed under table in brown paper bags type of things. But nah, that would never happen. Would it? Hm-m-m-m-m.

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