SONOMA, CA - Pirelli GT4 America Sprint round 8 at was run under fantastic conditions through the fast and flowing Sonoma Raceway, a 2.38 mile circuit in Northern California. Cooper won the 50 minute sprint race while also setting the fast lap of the race to claim pole for Sunday’s race 2.
Three-time series champion Michael Cooper (Pro) took the field to the green flag in his #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) in the #66 TRG Porsche. Drew Staveley (Am) in the #12 Ian Lacy Racing Ford Mustang GT4 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.
10 minutes into the event saw the sole safety car bunch the field back together after the #74 Robinson Racing Camaro of Gar Robinson (Pro) and #19 Cameron Racing BMW of 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 #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 Michael 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 seconds. 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 continued, “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. “It was an awesome race! The start was a little wild as we hit doors with [Shane] Lewis, but we had good pace the entire race and that’s all I can ask for,” said Staveley.
Behind Staveley in the Am category was the #7 Park Place Porsche of Alan Brynjofsson and Jeff Burton in the #91 Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4. Tony Gaples would come home fourth in the #11 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S with Toby Grahovec in the #26 Classic BMW fifth.
Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Race 2 begins on Sunday at 8:30am local time with live streaming being shown on the series streaming platform at live.sro-america.com.