Young Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y., drove to a dominating victory Saturday at Sonoma Raceway in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. for the 50-minute Round 8 Pirelli World Challenge GT race, while Patrick Long provisionally clinched the GT Overall championship with a third place.
Cooper, the 27-year-old newly-crowned GT SprintX champion, grabbed the lead into turn one from his second-place starting position and never looked back in pacing all 32 laps Saturday afternoon, finishing with a 2.785-second win margin at the 2.35-mile, 12-turn road circuit. It was Cooper’s second 2017 PWC GT win after co-driving with Jordan Taylor to capture the GT SprintX event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last May.
“The starts here are always iffy because of how Turns 1 and 2 are laid out so I asked to review the Start Procedure because that makes a big difference on where you are in P1 or P2 and how you can attack the corners,” said Cooper. “As far as our guys, it was unfortunate what happened to No. 3 Johnny O'Connell yesterday and they had to work pretty late into the night to get the backup car ready for that so being able to reward them after a couple hours of sleep and a lot of hard work makes me feel really good. The Cadillac was really strong here last year so this place definitely suits our car really well. That's the beauty of GT3 racing - you have all these different makes that make their speeds in different ways so you have to tune in every week to see who's going to be the strongest car.”
Long, the Manhattan Beach, Calif., driver, played the consistent game all year with his No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with four wins, five second-places and three third-places in the 18 GT races with one race remaining Sunday morning at 10:15 a.m. PDT. Long will start from the pole in Sunday’s 50-minute finale after a track record race lap in Saturday’s contest.Long currently has 342 points overall to Alvaro Parente’s 315 and Cooper's 313 entering Sunday’s Round 19. This is Long’s second Pirelli World Challenge GT championship after also taking the 2011 title.
“My plan was to try to go out there and finish out the Overall Championship, so I had to stay close to Michael Cooper and Alvaro Parente,” said Long. “I found a championship that was stripped out of my hands in the last half lap last year based on some errors from a car ahead of me and I felt like there was a little bit of risk here today with a couple of cars ahead of me that I thought I had some pace over. I made a decision to play it a little bit safe through the mid-race and let the doors stay open for me. In the end, I still wanted to race for the podium and show what the car was capable of and that allowed us to secure pole for tomorrow which was another point that made my job a little bit easier. Any given Sunday you can have a different winner and I think that's unique for Pirelli World Challenge. I love being here. I've raced a lot of different championships this year for Porsche and I really have found a home here. To be a champion overall, it's been a long wait since we had our last champion in 2011. So eyes up for tomorrow, we're going to race for the win and try to go out on top.”
Porsche clinched the GT Overall manufacturers championship Saturday with 128 points followed by Cadillac at 117 and McLaren at 114. Also, the GTA drivers title was captured by veteran James Sofronas of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
In addition, Long goes into Sunday’s GT finale with a four-point advantage over Parente 179 to 175 in the GT Sprint series 9 rounds. Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S, defeated Long last year on the final lap of the last race to take the Pirelli World Challenge GT crown.
In Saturday’s event, Parente took second to Cooper after starting seventh and was awarded the “Hard Charger” of the race with Long rounding out the podium top-three finishes.
“Congratulations to Patrick, and to Michael for winning the race,” said Parente. “It's been very exciting this year with the Sprint and SprintX racing. Today, for sure we didn't start where we wanted in P7. In one lap with our tires, the car felt pretty good so we didn't have any more lap time there so the other cars were just faster with new tires. I knew if I wanted to stand a chance in any of the championships, I had to pass people and try to attack hard and try to get in front of everybody. But, when you start in 7th and finish in 2nd, it's still great. Thanks to my team and to everyone involved in my car. We've been quite good all year except for one or two races so this was a really good result for today let's see what happens tomorrow.”
Germany’s Pierre Kaffer drove the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi RS 8 LMS GT3 to fourth Saturday followed by race pole winner Daniel Mancinelli of Italy in the No. 31 TR3 Racing/The Collection Ferrari 488 GT3.Completing the top-ten in Round 18 action were Ryan Dalziel of Scotland in the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3 Jon Fogarty of Bend, Ore., in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R GTA race winner Michael Schein of Glen Cove, N.Y., in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Peter Kox of The Netherlands in the No. 93 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 and Sofronas.
With Schein and Sofronas placing 1-2 in GTA, third place went to Pablo Perez Companc of Argentina in the No. 69 Champ 1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 followed by John Potter of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi RS8 LMS and Tim Pappas of Boston, Mass., in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. “Hats off to the guys at Wright Motorsports,” said Schein. “They gave us a great Porsche GT3 R right from the get go. I know Pat Long was here last week testing, making changes, setting it up, and the car has been great all weekend. I've been lucky enough to be quick right out of the gate and just build on that every session. This is not exactly how we wanted this season to turn out. We had the pace all year to be at the top but, it happens. Congrats to James Sofronas for winning the championship.”
Yuki Harata of Japan piloted the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo to the GT Cup class win Saturday.
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