This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Michael Cooper reflects on a 2018 season that saw him contest the GTS SprintX championship for Blackdog Speed Shop, while adding additional starts in GT and TCR for CRP Racing and RealTime Racing, respectively.
What did you learn from jumping from car to car last year that can help you in the future?
“I’ve always had an open mind to drive anything. I wasn’t allowed to drive other race cars for a couple of years but now I have that freedom, so I’m always willing to jump in when an opportunity arises.
“It was interesting to be able to drive multiple cars on the same weekend and really see how they differ and what needed to be done to make those scenarios work.
“I think I did it pretty successfully, especially in Portland, so I’ve got that experience in my pocket now.”
Was there a combination of cars that was more challenging in terms of jumping back and forth?
“Switching between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars when I drove the Realtime Honda Civic Type R TCR and the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R at Portland was probably more difficult.
“The Camaro needs to be driven really deep into corners to get the best lap time out of it.
“I had been consciously reprogramming my driving style all year to go deeper into corners and trail more brake because that’s what needed to be done.
“Then I jump in this front wheel drive momentum car without ABS which needs a totally different driving style to go quick, doing it well the first time was definitely a challenge.”
What was the highlight of your season?
“The highlight of my season was sharing a car with Tony Gaples. We were teammates in separate cars back in 2015 when I won the GTS championship and have been good friends ever since.
“Getting to share a car and work together to achieve results was a lot of fun. We had a couple really strong moments.
“The podium in Round 1 at COTA, second place, and again going back to Portland, Tony almost got us on the podium at the end of the race fighting with Scott Maxwell.
“He ended up passing us with a handful of laps left, but that’s some good company to be keeping for a driver.”
Does the dynamic change when your team owner is also your co-driver?
“No, we have a strong relationship so there’s no change in the dynamic between us. When we get to the race track Tony is just another driver because he knows that’s how he achieves the most behind the wheel.”
What do you in the offseason to stay sharp and stay fit?
“It’s a pretty normal training regimen and diet and whatnot, and then some simulator work like iRacing. I feel like that has actually been the foundation of my driving, actually, because I didn’t do any karting as a kid.
“Early on, when I was in some of the lower professional ranks, that work on the simulator was really helpful to bring my driving along. I use that to stay sharp.”