Michael Cooper says his last-minute call up to drive for CRP Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge races at Utah Motorsports Campus this weekend is bringing his career full-circle.
The reigning PWC SprintX champion will share driving duties with Matthew Brabham in the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3, but only found out he would be in the seat on Tuesday.
Cooper, who is also racing the GTS category for Blackdog Speed Shop this weekend, said his longstanding connection with team owner Nick Short made it possible to slide into the team when the ride unexpectedly came open.
“I’ve always kept in touch with Nick,” Cooper told Sportscar365. “He was one of the first phone calls I made at the beginning of the year, but he called me on Saturday night curious if I would be able to do it.
“I told him that I don’t have an exclusive deal with GM right now. We kept following up and talking throughout the week and he gave me the nod.
“Nick’s always believed in me. After I won the Touring Car championship, Nick gave me a test in the Corvette. That was in 2013. It was the first GT car I’d ever been in.
“Then, later that year at Mid-Ohio it just worked out in a similar situation to what we’re in right now where some things went on with the driver that was in the car, I was there already on Thursday, and he said: jump in this thing and drive it for the weekend.
“Honestly, that was the weekend that put me on the map and got me the GTS ride, got me the GT ride. Nick and I have always kept in touch and it’s worked out.”
Cooper competed against CRP’s Mercedes as part of Cadillac Racing’s lineup a year ago which he says gives him an idea of what to expect from the car when he takes to the track for the first time.
Despite both him and his co-driver lacking in experience with the Mercedes, with Brabham so far having only driven it at Portland, Cooper expressed confidence that they can get up to speed.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Matt to get a feeling of what he thinks about the car, but I did go back and look at all the timing and scoring data from Portland so I have an idea of where he was there,” he said.
“If he can make another step forward here, I think that’s realistic and that will make him very competitive with all the other guys out there.
“I don’t want to seem like I’m underestimating the task, but I don’t think there’s too much aside from jumping in the car and seeing what’s what.
“I’ll see if there’s any video or data from last year I can take a look at but I’ve looked through all my stuff from last year at this place.
“It’s not too complicated, we have two hours of practice split between two guys, and I’m running the Blackdog car also so I’ll get plenty of time on track this weekend.
“Hopefully it runs fairly smoothly. I have some ideas of how it might make its speed differently than some of the other GT3 cars.
“I have an idea of what to expect, but truly I won’t know until I jump in. It’s a familiar platform, GT3, so I don’t see any problems jumping in and getting up to speed.”