Michael Cooper and Jordan Taylor enter the final weekend of Pirelli World Challenge SprintX competition with a 27-point cushion at the top of the standings, but with three races on tap at Circuit of The Americas, they know there is still work to be done to clinch the title for Cadillac Racing.
A consistent season, just one finish worse than fourth in seven starts, has the pair in the championship lead despite recording only one win on the season, a strategy-aided triumph at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
But Cooper and Taylor saw their lead over TR3 Racing’s Daniel Mancinelli dwindle at the last round at Utah Motorsports Campus when the Ferarri driver scored a second and a win compared to an eighth and third for the championship leaders.
It sets up a dramatic three-race dash to the championship this weekend with plenty of points on offer and a bevy of drivers in the hunt for SprintX glory.
With 25 points available for race winners and an additional bonus point for an overall pole, a perfect 78-point weekend could swing the championship any number of different directions.
The CRP Racing tandem of Ryan Dalziel and Daniel Morad are lurking within striking distance, 32 points out of the lead in third, with Wright Racing driver Patrick Long and the K-PAX Racing pairing of Alvaro Parente and Ben Barnicoat also in earshot 39 and 42 points adrift, respectively.
The top 10 in SprintX points are all within 57 points of Cooper and Taylor, and the standings are likely to look dramatically different after three races this weekend.
With the championship this tightly packed and with three races’ worth of points on the line, Cooper says an aggressive pursuit of race wins is the most viable strategy for everyone in the SprintX title chase while still keeping an eye on the overall championship picture.
“At this point in the championship we have no choice but to be aggressive, to try to beat the [overall] championship rivals in the No. 9 McLaren and the No. 58 Porsche in every remaining race,” he said.
“With that in mind I don’t think having three races will impact the way we approach the weekend.
“Even though we are leading the SprintX standings and I’d love to win that for Cadillac, we can’t go into cost and collect mode to make sure we tick that box.
“I am focused on the big picture. Our goal is to leave COTA in contention for the overall PWC GT title. If we are able to accomplish that, there is a 99.9 percent chance we will have won the SprintX title.”
If past history is any indication, the Cadillac ATS-V.R package should be strong at COTA.
Cooper and fellow-Cadillac Racing driver Johnny O’Connell combined to earn three podium finishes in the two PWC Sprint races at the track last year.
Taylor, meanwhile, says that capitalizing on that pace with a strong qualifying effort will be critical to accomplishing their goals.
“We have a comfortable lead coming into the weekend, but there are still a lot of points to be won or lost,” he said. “We have to just keep doing what we’ve been doing all year: focusing on our own race, running our own pace, and staying out of trouble, that includes qualifying well.”
“Qualifying is probably the most important part of the weekend. It’s very tough to make passes in these cars, so the farther up you start, the easier your life is going to be.
“The starts can often get pretty hectic because people know that is their best time to make up positions.”
“There are a lot of points on the table and a lot of things that can go right or wrong, but we’ll approach it the same way as any other weekend.”