AUSTIN, Texas – Blackdog Speed Shop walked away from Circuit of The Americas with four trophies in the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Championship, including a winner’s one for Michael Cooper following a victory Sunday in the weekend’s closing race.
Cooper and teammate Tony Gaples each made the GT4 podium Saturday and Sunday in their Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S GT4 racers. They accomplished the podium sweep last year at Sonoma Raceway, but this may be the first of many in 2020 with 14 races yet to go in the season.
The victory also was the 30th for Blackdog Speed Shop in GT4/GTS competition dating back to 2013. No team in the category has more.
Cooper won from the front row Sunday in the No. 10 Blackdog McLaren while Gaples went from eighth to third in GT4 Am to cap the weekend. They both finished third in Saturday’s season-opening race.
Cooper, a three-time World Challenge Champion, settled in to second place for the first-half of Sunday’s 50-minute race before turning up the pressure on pole-sitter Drew Staveley. Right at the halfway point, Cooper went side-by-side with Staveley through the final complex of corners around 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit. Cooper headed into the uphill first turn on the inside line, made the move stick and coasted despite two late full-course caution periods.
Gaples, driving the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S GT4, made magic of his own at the first corner at the start of the race. Rolling off eighth in class, he passed three cars on the inside of Turn One, made it cleanly down the hill and picked up another spot by the end of the second lap.
Not satisfied, Gaples took third 10 minutes later on the back half of the lap. The two caution periods gave him a shot at a class victory but the pace of the two front-runners compared to the McLaren was too great to overcome.
There’s little time to rest. Blackdog Speed Shop will head to St. Petersburg, Florida, for the second round of the GT4 Sprint Championship from March 13-15.
MICHAEL COOPER, NO. 10 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: "What a start to the weekend! Congratulations to Tony on his drive and another podium. The Blackdog Speed Shop guys have worked so hard to bring this McLaren some speed. We wanted to keep building over the winter on what we found last season. We made some great adjustments overnight that helped the balance of the car and management of the tires, too. We'll take this race win and celebrate tonight! The best thing is that we already are up there and in the mix for the championship. We aren’t leaving the first event with just 10 points like we did last year so we're feeling good about this start."
TONY GAPLES, NO. 11 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: “That’s two unexpected podiums this weekend, so we’ll leave Austin happy and with good points. I wasn’t really sure how the start would turn out but I was determined to get to the inside and take as many spots as I could at the corner. Fortunately a lane opened up and I made more progress than I thought I could. From then on, I tried to keep the car consistent and get a better feel for the new GT4 tire. There wasn’t enough to really push for the lead but from where we started this is a good result. Congratulations to Michael and all our group at Blackdog Speed Shop. I couldn’t be more proud of this weekend’s results.”