Michael Cooper, driving the #8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R, won Round Eight of the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge Sprint GT / GTA championship, crossing the line 2.785 seconds ahead of Alvaro Parente in the #9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3.
Taking the final podium position, and clinching the 2017 Overall GT Driver’s Championship, was Patrick Long in the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The GTA class was won by Michael Schein driving the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with James Sofronas, piloting the #14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, taking second place in the class and, as a result, winning the Sprint GT Classes Driver Championship for the GTA category.
Third in the GTA class was the #69 Champ 1 Mercedes AMG GT3 driven by Pablo Perez Companc.
Cooper took the lead shortly after the start when pole-sitter Daniel Mancinelli in the #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 had to back out of the throttle to avoid a potential jump-start penalty. The Italian driver held on to the second place until, with 15 minutes remaining, he was passed by Alvaro Parente in the #9 K-Pax Racing McLaren 650S GT3. Mancinelli slipped back to fifth at the chequered flag.
Michael Cooper was delighted at the overall victory, especially as Cadillac Racing had had a long night repairing damage to the #3 Cadillac ATS-V.R after Johnny O’Connell crashed in practice the previous day.
“It was an incredible race win today,” said Cooper. “The Cadillac guys were here till 2.00am last night finishing the #3 car and just to reward them with something like this is awesome and makes me so happy.”
Cooper was pleased that his concentration on the start had paid dividends.
“I asked the question in the drivers meeting about the start procedure because I know guys who have been messing with it a little and getting penalties for it,” said Cooper. “Then Daniel went a little early and had to get out of the gas and I kept going because he had gone and I’m like ‘I’m not going to let everyone drive away from me’.”
“From there he put some pressure on me early on but I was able to conserve tyres – the traction management in this Cadillac is unreal. It allowed me to keep the tyres under me and that’s why we still had the pace all fifty minutes.”
Patrick Long drove a conservative race with overall drivers title in mind but was frustrated by a fellow competitors tactics.
“He (Alvaro Parente) was wearing out my rear bumper and after last year I hate points-racing but there’s not a lot of trust with a few of my rivals out there,” said Long. “In the end it was the right move. I still had a lot of pressure from behind from Pierre (Kaffer) but the car was good today.”
“The Porsche GT3 R is the car to have on tracks like this where it’s technical and twisty – short wheel-base, lightweight and agile. Thank you to Wright Motorsports. These guys worked their tails off. We had to wait an extra year and it feels that much sweeter.”
Long will have the Sprint championship in his sights for race two.
“Yes, the Sprint championship and team championship are all up for grabs. In the end the final trophy is the overall championship and it takes the pressure off tomorrow. It means we can race hard, maybe use our bumper in the same way that others did today.”
World Challenge veteran James Sofronas was pleased that this season-long commitment to a run at a championship had paid off and was unaware that his second place had earned him the GTA drivers title for 2017.
“I didn’t know that,” said Sofronas. “I knew it was close and we played it smart. That’s exciting because there’s been a lot of support behind me all these years. (I’ve had) unrelenting support (from my family) which is definitely what you need when you’re racing and my guys on the team from GMG – they deserve as much credit as anyone. It certainly is a team effort. I’ve been working hard at this.”
“This year was all about making a full-time effort and being committed to running for a championship. So we made the goal the championship and we’re happy to get it.”
“It’s great to be here in World Challenge after all these years and to finally get a championship. This feels good after a lot of racing so I’ll think I’ll take a little break but we have one more to go. I don’t want to play this conservatively and now I guess I don’t have to!”
Race Two of the weekend for the GT / GTA classes takes place at 10:15 local time on Sunday September 17.
Photo courtesy of PWC