LINCOLNSHIRE, Illinois – For the first time in three months, Blackdog Speed Shop is preparing for racing in the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Championship. The powerhouse program – along with the rest of SRO America – heads this weekend to Virginia International Raceway for a busy weekend of competition.
Things will look significantly different at VIR in more ways than one. No spectators will be allowed in the facility, and only essential team, track and series personnel will be admitted. All teams will practice social distancing and use of proper PPE while following federal, state and local protocols in efforts to negate transmission of the coronavirus.
That isn’t the only departure from normal. Michael Cooper will be the Blackdog team’s lone representative on-track in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S GT4. Teammate Tony Gaples will miss the VIR weekend due to recent emergency surgery on his right eye. He hopes to return to racing at the next GT4 Sprint weekend at Sonoma. This will be the first race Gaples has missed since 2017 and the first time he has missed a complete event weekend since he began racing full-time in SRO/World Challenge.
Cooper will arrive at VIR tied for the GT4 Sprint Championship lead on the strength of a victory and third-place finish at Circuit of The Americas in March to open the season. A three-time SRO America champion, the McLaren Automotive factory driver won one of two Pro category races a year ago at VIR.
This time around, Cooper and Blackdog Speed Shop will have three races on the weekend – one each Friday, Saturday and Sunday – to make up for races missed at St. Petersburg and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Blackdog Speed Shop’s three races at VIR are scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET Friday, 9:25 a.m. ET Saturday and 3:45 p.m. ET Sunday. All three races plus Saturday’s 8:30 a.m. ET qualifying session will stream live on gt4-america.com.
MICHAEL COOPER, NO. 10 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: “It will be good to be back racing. Credit goes to SRO America and VIR for making sure we can come back in a safe manner and in a safe location. The weekend will be strange all the away around – three races, no fans and no Tony. It’s really bad luck for him to miss this weekend with the great start he had at COTA. I know he’s really disappointed to not be able to make it. We’ll continue to do what we always have at Blackdog Speed Shop – get the most points and best results out of the weekend no matter the challenge thrown at us. It’s nothing new for us and it’s something we embrace.”
TONY GAPLES, NO. 11 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: "The only thing more painful that missing an event weekend is the pain I felt in my right eye last week. The procedure to repair a broken capillary and retina was really unpleasant but hopefully all this will be behind me before Sonoma and I can get back in the McLaren. It's a tough decision. I was really looking forward to getting back to racing at VIR - a track I really enjoy. It's disappointing that I won't be part of the championship picture but this needed be done. We will be in good hands with Michael in the No. 10 McLaren all weekend to represent Blackdog Speed Shop."