Newly-crowned Pirelli World Challenge SprintX co-champion Michael Cooper says his focus now is on securing the GT manufacturers’ championship for Cadillac Racing in this weekend’s season finale at Sonoma, with his bid for the drivers’ championship facing difficult odds.
It was a SprintX season of remarkable consistency for Cooper and co-driver Jordan Taylor, who regularly made the most of of their difficult days to stay in the championship hunt.
A perfect strategy at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park snared the duo’s lone win of the season, while quick work on pit lane by the No. 8 crew to change a battery at Virginia International Raceway prevented a bad day from getting worse.
The duo’s only retirement of the season came in the final race at Circuit of The Americas, and while it proved costly in Cooper’s quest for the overall championship, it was not enough to prevent the all-American pairing from winning the SprintX drivers’ title.
Cooper said his pride in taking the SprintX championship has grown as he has had more time to reflect on the feat, but disappointment lingers over the implications of the DNF on his pursuit of the overall title.
“I was disappointed after the finale in how it affected the overall championship just because it took a lot of wind out of everyone’s sail with the team,” Cooper told Sportscar365.
“Given some time to reflect on what we’d accomplished, if you look at the quality of the drivers that came in for SprintX and the strength of the pairings, any car in the Pro-Pro GT class could win on any given day.
“I’m really proud that we got it done, especially because we didn’t have the fastest car. We were consistent, we stayed on track, we took a bunch of podiums home along the way.
“It’s pretty special, and it’s just starting to sink in.”
With a 32-point gap to Patrick Long to overcome in the overall drivers’ championship in the final two races of the season, Cooper said the focus has shifted to securing the manufacturers’ title for Cadillac.
“The one saving grace is that we’re still in the manufacturers championship,” he said.
“It would mean a lot. That was the goal last year when I came into the program. At the end of the day, the program is about Cadillac and not Johnny [O’Connell], or Jordan, or Ricky [Taylor], or I, it’s about the manufacturer. It would be a huge notch in our belt if we were to pull it off.
“That’s what we’ll be gunning for at Sonoma, and you never know what can happen. We’ll see how exciting we can make these last couple of races.”
While he’d like to be able to go all-out for the drivers’ championship at Sonoma, Cooper said he recognized that scoring big points for Cadillac needs to be the priority.
“I’d like to be on full attack, just going for it and trying to win the race like Johnny was able to do at Sonoma last year,” he said. “He had nothing to lose so he just went for it.
“I don’t think with the manufacturers being this close that I can really afford to do that. I’m always a big-picture guy, so I just have to keep that same mindset, keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll see what happens.”