Michael Cooper, driving the #8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R, won his second race of the weekend in the GT / GTA class and with it the final round of the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge Sprint GT championship.
Pushing Cooper all the way to the chequered flag was pole-sitter, and 2017 Overall Drivers Champion, Patrick Long, driving the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. The Californian Porsche factory driver finished .882 seconds behind the #8 car.
Pierre Kaffer secured the final podium spot in the #4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS, .208 seconds behind Long in the #58 entry.
The GTA class was won by 2017 SprintX GT Pro/Am and GTA drivers champion James Sofronas in the #14 GMG Racing Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Second in the GTA category was Pablo Perez Companc, piloting the #69 Champ 1 Mercedes AMG GT3.
German manufacturers took all three podium positions in the GTA class after Tim Pappas, driving the #54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes AMG GT3, finished third.
The race saw an unfortunate tangle in the first corner after Daniel Mancinelli, driving the #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari F488 GT3, made contact with Alvaro Parente in the # 9 K-Pax Racing McLaren 650S GT3. The resulting damage and recovery brought out the Safety Car and caused the retirement of Parente. Mancinelli in the #31 car received a two-minute stop-gap penalty for causing the accident and went on to finish fifteenth overall.
After taking the lead at the start, Cooper maintained the position through to chequered flag, despite Long in the #58 Porsche closing to within less than half a second with fifteen minutes remaining. Long’s second position, however, added the 2017 Sprint GT championship to the Overall GT Drivers he secured in the previous race.
“In Pirelli World Challenge, these 50-minute sprint races are always about qualifying pace all the way through and that’s exactly how today’s race was,” said Cooper. “You put your head down, try not to look behind you too much and just go for it. I was able to come away with the sweep for the weekend. I’m very proud to give these guys something to celebrate tonight in addition to the SprintX championship.”
“Most kids start out in karts or cars when they’re very young and I didn’t do that,” continued Cooper. “I started when I was 20, and I’m 28 now so it hasn’t been that long. But winning three championships in a short amount of time, and that I’ve done it – getting rides on merit and not any other way…. Also, Patrick Long mentioned the CVs of the factory drivers in this category and you look at my resume against those guys and it’s pretty easy to read so that makes me very proud that I can compete with guys like that and hold them off for the win.”
Cooper finished third in the GT Sprint drivers championship, 12 points behind Alvaro Parente who finished second in the standings on 175 points.
James Sofronas, driving the #14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, led the GTA field away from the grid in pole-position and held the class lead through to the chequered flag. Pablo Perez Companc in the #69 Champ 1 Mercedes AMG GT3 closed the gap to Sofronas to just over half a second in the final laps but was unable to find a way round the highly experienced Pirelli World Challenge veteran.
Sofronas was delighted at his eleventh victory of the season.
“It’s definitely been a great year,” said Sofronas. “I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing team this year and we’ve been running five cars, 24 in our crew, and somehow I’ve managed to put it together with a great staff. When I get in the car, that’s my break from everything – I can just race – but it wouldn’t have happened without a great crew. After I finished this race, I realised we ran every single lap of every single race this year. We didn’t miss one single lap. That’s testament to the prep level and these guys have a lot going on.”
Michael Schein, piloting the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and who lay fourth in the GTA drivers standings going in to the weekend, retired after three laps with a drive train failure.
The 2018 Pirelli World Challenge calendar was announced on September 17 with the opening round, St. Petersburg, being held on March 9/11, 2018.