Here’s the first of a series of catch-ups throughout the 2016 season with Cadillac Racing’s Michael Cooper. If the name isn’t familiar, it’s going to be!
Michael Cooper (26) pilots the #8 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R Coupe in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Championship. He is the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge GTS driver champion. The driver from Syosset, New York posted four wins and two additional podium finishes in the #10 Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Camaro Z28 to win the driver title.
On December 30th I was presented as the driver of the #8 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R Coupe. Since then it has been a whirlwind of being indoctrinated into everything Cadillac. Cadillac Racing has proven to be the most accomplished team in the Pirelli World Challenge paddock. The opportunity to work with the team and represent the Cadillac brand is an honor.
A funny story, back in 2009 my current teammate Johnny O’Connell (four-time World Challenge GT Champion) saw me drive at the CTS-V Challenge where, then GM president, Bob Lutz challenged civilians to try and beat the CTS-V around a race track. After seeing my effort, Johnny said ‘this is the type of kid you hope pursues racing.’ Being Johnny’s teammate just six years later makes me feel like my racing career has really come full circle.
Our season started at the Circuit of the Americas in March. Right out of the box I was able to get a third place finish in race one and a second place in race two. Since then we have raced at St. Petersburg, Florida, I finished fourth and third; Long Beach, California, I was 15th; and Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama where I was able to get a second place in race one and my first win for Cadillac in race two.
There is more to the finish at Long Beach than just the 15th place in the stats column. In qualifying I had a turbo issue that the Cadillac Racing crew just couldn’t get fixed in time for me to post a lap. I started from the back of the field and drove to fourth place right up behind Porsche factory driver Patrick Long. With three laps to go there was fluid on the track on the track and I brushed the wall, damaging my Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe.
At Barber I was on pole position for the start of race one. Our races are 50-minutes in length, so qualifying is critical. McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente schooled me on the start and went onto win the race.
I recognized just how hard it was to pass after driving behind him for nearly an hour. I knew that race two was going to be more or less won or lost at the start, so I Dared Greatly (Cadillac tag-line) to move on the outside and was able to take the lead heading into Turn 2. Once in the lead I knew if I just hit my marks for 50-minutes that the McLaren would find it nearly impossible to pass around the tight Barber circuit.
It is still a little surreal that I just got my first win in a GT3 car and for Cadillac. It is absolutely awesome to come all the way through the ranks of World Challenge and get a win at the top level.
Next stop is Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (a.k.a. Mosport) this coming weekend (May 19-22) where Johnny won both races last year. Looking forward to running that great circuit in the Cadillac.
Pics copyright Cadillac Racing/ Richard Prince