Cooper Conquers Sonoma GT4 Sprint

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Michael Cooper won Saturday's Pirelli GT4 America Sprint event at Sonoma Raceway.
Michael Cooper won Saturday's Pirelli GT4 America Sprint event at Sonoma Raceway.

SONOMA, Calif. – Pirelli GT4 America Sprint round eight at was run under fantastic conditions through the fast and flowing Sonoma Raceway, a 2.38 mile circuit in Northern California.

Michael Cooper won the 50 minute sprint race while also setting the fastest lap of the race to claim pole for Sunday’s race two.

Three-time series champion Michael Cooper (Pro) took the field to the green flag in his No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren and instantly opened a 1.5 second lead over Team Panoz’s Ian James (Pro) and championship leader Spencer Pumpelly (Pro).

Drew Staveley (Am) moved from fifth to fourth overall with an aggressive pass over Robinson Racing’s Shane Lewis (Pro), while earning a commanding lead on his class rivals.

Ten minutes into the event saw the sole safety car bunch the field back together after Gar Robinson (Pro) and Sean Quinlan (Am) collided at turn four, ending Quinlan’s day.  Robinson would continue, but fall to 20th.

CRP Racing’s Matt Brabham (Pro) would benefit from the caution after having to start from the back of the field due to the No. 20 Porsche being late to pre-grid.  Brabham would move up to tenth before the caution struck and go on to finish an impressive fourth in class, fifth overall.

With 30 minutes remaining the field went back to green where Cooper was once again able to gap the Panoz of Ian James and open up a lead of 1.3 seconds.

With 15 minutes to go James would slowly start to reel in the leading McLaren of Cooper, closing to within .2 of a second.  Despite pulling along-side the McLaren at the hairpin, the Avezzano driver would not be able to get past Cooper and would settle for second after an intense last-lap battle.

“Ian [James] usually waits for the last two laps, saves his car, then just goes for it and usually has a bit more than what he shows,” Cooper said. “My car was a bit of a handful at that point of the race, but I knew I needed to get Ian off line and hope he would pick up some marbles in a few places.  It ultimately worked out.”

Behind Cooper and James were Spencer Pumpelly, Matt Brabham, with Jarrett Andretti rounding out the top five in Pro.

Drew Staveley would cruise to the Am-class victory in his Ford Mustang, finishing fourth overall.

Behind Staveley in the Am category was Alan Brynjofsson and Jeff Burton.  Tony Gaples would come home fourth, with Toby Grahovec fifth.

In SprintX action, the No. 34 Murillo Racing Mercedes AMG of Christian Szymczak (SprintX West Pro-Am) would lead the field to the green flag with the late evening sun setting to the west of Sonoma Raceway.

That lead would only last for 15 minutes as Vesko Kozarov (SprintX West Am) in the No. 91 Rearden Racing Audi R8 GT4 would pass Szymczak and quickly gap the field.

The Kozarov/Burton pairing would hang on to the lead and claim their first overall win of the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX season.

“I’m super proud of Jeff [Burton] to hang on to the car with some great drivers behind him to pull away and take the win.  The car is a bullet and Jeff brought it home,” said Kozarov.