Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Round 8 at was run under fantastic conditions on the fast and flowing Sonoma Raceway in Northern California, and Michael Cooper (No. 10 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren) won the 50-minute race while also setting race fastes lap of the race to claim pole for Sunday’s Race 2 (series Round 9).
Cooper, a three-time series champion, took the field to the green flag and almost instantly opened a 1.5 second lead over Team Panoz’s Ian James (Pro) and championship points leader Spencer Pumpelly (Pro) in the #66 TRG – The Racing Group Porsche. Drew Staveley (Am) in the No. 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.
Just 10 minutes into the event, though, the safety car bunched the field back together after the No. 74 Robinson Racing Camaro of Gar Robinson (Pro) and the No. 19 Cameron Racing BMW of Sean Quinlan (Am) collided at Turn 4, ending Quinlan’s day. Robinson would continue, but fell 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 his No. 20 Porsche being late to pre-grid. Brabham had moved up to 10th before the safety car period, and went on to finish an impressive fourth in class, fifth overall.
With 30 minutes remaining, the field went back to green and Cooper was once again able to gap James’ Panoz, opening up a lead of 1.3 seconds.
With 15 minutes to go, though, James was slowly reeling in the leading McLaren, closing to within .2 seconds. Despite pulling alongside at the hairpin, the Avezzano driver was not be able to get past, and had to 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 after the race. “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 hoped he would pick up some marbles in a few places. It ultimately worked out!”
Behind Cooper and James were Spencer Pumpelly, Matt Brabham, and 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 No. 7 Park Place Porsche of Alan Brynjofsson and Jeff Burton in the No. 91 Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4. Tony Gaples was fourth in class in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S, with Toby Grahovec in the No. 26 Classic BMW fifth.
Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Race 2 begins on Sunday at 8:30am local time, with live streaming on the series streaming platform, live.sro-america.com.
RESULTS TO FOLLOW