With four weekends remaining, the Pirelli World Challenge title race is heating up, with Michael Cooper and Patrick Long heading into this weekend’s round at Mid-Ohio in a dead heat for the lead of the overall GT championship.
The Cadillac Racing driver and Porsche factory ace, driving for Wright Motorsports, are tied at 183 points each, in what’s turned into a season-long, hard-fought battle for the GT championship.
Long, on the heels of his third victory of the season in the No. 58 Wright Porsche 911 GT3 R, enters the penultimate Sprint weekend of the season with momentum on his side, although is not resting on his laurels, knowing anything can happen in the final races of the year.
In addition to being tied for the lead in the overall title, the 35-year-old Californian holds a 7-point lead in the Sprint championship over defending series champion Alvaro Parente, of K-PAX Racing.
“With four races left in the Sprint season and an overall championship on the line, it’s going to be business as usual, which means we are going to push hard every lap,” Long said.
“You always come back stronger after a trying week like we had last season at Mid-Ohio.
“Since then, we’ve been able to analyze where we were losing time and feel a lot better heading into this week.
“We don’t have the budgets like some of the other teams to pre-test at most tracks, but I have a lot of confidence in John [Wright] and Bobby [Viglione]. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Cooper, who has recorded only a single win this season, in SprintX competition alongside Jordan Taylor, is hoping Mid-Ohio, and the remainder of the tracks on the schedule, will suit his Cadillac ATS-V.R, although admits Mid-Ohio could be a challenge.
“It is a little perplexing that the Porsche has been able to match or beat our lap times at every track this year, even the tracks that you would think suit our car better,” Cooper said.
“Knowing this we tested at Mid-Ohio, which was probably the best test in terms of set-up improvement that I’ve been involved with this year.
“If we do have a quicker car, I would attribute it back to the massive preparation that has gone into this weekend by the team.”
Cooper admits Mid-Ohio could better suit Long’s Porsche.
“Mid-Ohio should be a decent track for our Cadillac, however it is probably more suited to the lighter Porsche and McLaren,” he said.
“Our car is a little heavier, so naturally it takes us a little more time to get to the same top speed through acceleration.
“We were still able to overcome an overall pace deficiency to win last year, when we capitalized on a unique set of circumstances. Still we had to hold off the field for 50-minutes to win, but we did so with a car that belonged in the back half of the top 10.”
Despite there being a two-way tie for the lead of the championship, Parente shouldn’t be counted out of the overall title either, as the McLaren GT factory driver sits only 18 points behind in third.
The Portuguese driver seeks back-to-back titles, after taking the 2016 championship from Long in the season-finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year.
Mid-Ohio marks the penultimate round of the season for the Sprint series, which will conclude at Sonoma Raceway in September, with both Utah Motorsports Campus and Circuit of The Americas playing host to the two remaining SprintX events.