Blackdog Speed Shop team manager Ray Sorenson believes the team’s maximization of points through the early part of the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint season has helped put the team in prime position for the drivers, teams and manufacturers’ titles.
Michael Cooper heads into the title-deciding rounds at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 7.5-point lead over TRG’s Spencer Pumpelly after sweeping the weekend at Road America last month, with the Illinois-based squad and McLaren Automotive at the head of both the teams’ and manufacturers’ championships as well.
The longtime GM stalwarts made the radical switch to a pair of McLaren 570S GT4s for newly minted factory driver Micheal Cooper and team owner/driver Tony Gaples at the start of the year, which threw up a curve ball in getting acclimated to the mid-engined sports car.
Despite a challenging start to the season, which included penalty weight being added to Cooper due to his Gold driver rating, Sorenson said he never lost focus of their ultimate goal.
“You never really think you’re going to be out of it,” Sorenson said. “Did I think we’d be farther ahead of the curve? Yes, I thought that.
“After Long Beach was when we kind of realized that it was going to be a bigger learning curve than we were thinking.
“Even so, it all comes back to hoping to finish high enough in the points when it’s not your day to bring things along. That’s what we tried to do every weekend. Michael and Tony both have done great work to maximize our points and ‘punch above our weight’ as we like to say.
“Early on, it was the ability to work through issues at the track as we were going on. We didn’t have any development time, so having someone like Michael on-board to give us extra insight early on and then being able to spread that to Tony’s car was extremely helpful.”
While scoring podiums at Long Beach and Virginia International Raceway, Cooper’s breakthrough win in the first race of the weekend at Sonoma Raceway helped set their championship bid in motion.
“June was a big turning point, having Michael win the first race and finish second the next day,” Sorenson said. “That weekend told us we were on the right track.
“We used the summer break to do a little more work in addition to testing at Road America. That trip really paid off during the Elkhart Lake race weekend.
“It really gave us the time to do some development and figure out what the car liked and what it didn’t. Coming out of there with two wins for Michael and a second for Tony was huge.”
Las Vegas Unknowns Could Change Things “Dynamically”
Sorenson says the unknowns of the Las Vegas finale that teams are currently facing could have a large impact on the race and championship.
While having released a proposed track layout to teams late last month, a finalized version is not expected to come until the FIA’s final homologation, which will be made during race week, according to SRO Motorsports America President and CEO Greg Gill.
“There are ideas we have on what might work and what might not,” Sorenson said. “The first thing is to get a gauge of what is the actual final track layout.
“We’re not sure about the banking or if we have to run the apron. That will change things dynamically on the car.
“What you have to do is take your ideas and see if they apply right off the bat… leave the trailer on the test day with your best idea and go from there to see if you can chase the track.
“It’ll put everyone in the same ballpark as far as that goes. With our engineering and our drivers, I think we’ll know what to do.
“We know what we need to do, and I think everybody else has that same idea. Everyone in contention is going to want to be at the front, and we won’t be any different. That’s the way it’s going to work.”