Defending GTS champion Blackdog Speed Shop unveiled today its driver lineup for the first season of GTS SprintX racing in Pirelli World Challenge. Championship-winning drivers Andy Pilgrim and Michael Cooper will join full-season Sprint competitors Lawson Aschenbach and Tony Gaples for the five endurance rounds in 2018.
Aschenbach and Pilgrim will team together in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, while Cooper returns to the team with Gaples in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevy Camaro GT4.R.
Both SprintX driver pairings for Blackdog Speed Shop are reunions of sorts. Pilgrim and Aschenbach teamed together as part of Cadillac’s GT-class program in 2007. The Cadillac years were good ones for Pilgrim as he won the 2005 World Challenge GT Driver Championship and recorded runner-up points finishes in 2007, 2008 and 2012.
“I was considering a couple of racing options for this year when I received the call about GTSX,” Pilgrim said. “The opportunity to be part of the Blackdog team and drive the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R was too good to pass up! It’s going to be a pleasure partnering up again with Lawson; it’s been 11 years since we drove together for Team Cadillac. I certainly couldn’t have a better or more experienced teammate in the GTS category.
“There will be a lot of great competition and new SprintX rules for all of us, but I know this team has the history and knowledge to put us right in the mix.”
Pilgrim’s career includes 12 victories in World Challenge. He has long been part of GM’s most prominent motorsports efforts including with Corvette Racing from 2000-04. He recorded the program’s first victory in 2000 – one of his five wins with Corvette Racing.
Cooper, a returning teammate and three-time PWC champion, won the 2015 GTS title with Blackdog Speed Shop on the strength of four victories in the team’s Chevy Camaro. He has won 19 times in World Challenge since 2012.
In 2017, Cooper won three times for Cadillac in GT and shared the GT SprintX Driver title with Jordan Taylor. He also won the 2012 World Challenge Touring Car Driver Championship. In addition to his program with Blackdog Speed Shop, Cooper will drive for Callaway Competition in the GT category in 2018.
“It’s a nice homecoming to be back with Tony and everyone at Blackdog Speed Shop,” Cooper said. “This team played a big part in my development as a driver, and I was proud to win a championship for them. The Chevy Camaro GT4.R is a beast. It looks great and sounds great… like all Camaros do. I’m anxious to get to race ours starting at COTA with my friend Tony. We’ll have a good time, race hard and hopefully come away with some victories this year. I’ve been through a season of SprintX already from last year, so hopefully that experience can help us toward another championship.”
Added team manager Ray Sorenson: “SprintX is a new challenge for us. It creates additional strategies and scenarios with the mandatory driver change. The teams that can get a handle on how to best manage those situations will have an instant advantage early in the season. Our goal is to be that team. Having drivers the caliber of Andy and Michael – along with Lawson and Tony – is an added bonus. Their knowledge and experience will be key in helping us achieve another GTS Championship.”