New Yorker Michael Cooper Wins Pirelli World Challenge Touring
Car Sonoma And Season Championship
Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., made wrapping up the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Championships Touring Car title more of a drag race than a road race his victory was that dominating.
Cooper took the standing start from the pole position in his No. 03 MAZDASPEED Motorsports MAZDASPEED3 and as soon as the lights went out, Cooper dropped the hammer and never looked back. The launch was so impressive it earned Cooper the Kia Turning Point of the Race Award.
In fact, Cooper would never be challenged throughout the 22-lap race, which was run without a full-course caution. He crossed the stripe 3.753 seconds ahead of Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., to earn his sixth victory of the 14-race Touring Car season. Cooper's margin of victory in the final Touring Car championship standings was 108 points over Lamb. It was Cooper's second SCCA Pro Racing championship in as many years, as he claimed the 2011 Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup title just one year after sitting in a race car for the first time.
"I got out a huge gap, and just knew I needed to manage it and manage my car and make 40 minutes," Cooper said. "I knew I didn't need to win the thing.
While Cooper set sail on his way to victory, Lamb had his hands full battling for position throughout the race. He started third, moved up to second at the start and then battled Robert Thorne, winner of the first race of the tripleheader, throughout the first half of the race.
He took second place for good from Thorne on Lap 12, earning the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race. He finished the year with 12 podium results from the season's 14 races.
"It was a good race, we gave it our all," Lamb said. "We were used to the Mazda going out and burning the tires off later in the race and somehow they figured out how not to do that. It's certainly something we'll have to contend with next year, but we gave it everything we had. We did everything we could possibly do for this championship and it didn't work out. I'm really happy for the [Atlanta Motorsports Group] guys. I'm big friends of theirs and I'm happy to see them win the championship if I couldn't do it."
Finishing third was Lamb's Compass360 Racing teammate Ryan Winchester, of Mason City, Iowa. Winchester started fifth and battled Travis Wolcott, of Boulder, Colo. and Thorne, who hails from Denver, Colo., during the race. In fact, his battle for third with Thorne – which he ultimately won – drew the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award. It was Winchester's sixth top-three result of the season and he finished third in the final Touring Car standings
"The two races yesterday didn't go as to plan, I finished fifth in both," Winchester said. "We had a few issues and today I knew I still had to fight hard to finish third [in the championship]. I put my head down, my teammate had a shot at the championship so I did the best I could to catch up to him and give him a buffer. Cooper just had more than we did today. The crew did a fantastic job all weekend, we had a few repairs to do, we had a lot of set-up changes we had to make to get the cars the way we want them. They gave me a great job, gave me a good car that was easy to drive out there and just cruised to a third place finish."
Shea Holbrook, of Orlando, Fla., crossed the stripe in fourth place driving the No. 67 TrueCar.com/Virgin Honda Civic Si, but was involved in a Turn 6 incident with Wolcott on Lap 17 in which she spun the No. 30 Emich VW/StopTech/3Zero3 Motorsports Volkswagen Jetta GLI. SCCA Pro Racing officials penalized her 20 points and $1,000 for avoidable contact. Holbrook still finished fourth in the final Touring Car driver standings.
Peter Schwartzott, of Freeville, N.Y., finished fifth in the No. 41 Peter Schwartzott Racing Honda Civic Si. It was Schwartzott's second top-five result in five Touring Car starts this season. Thorne faded to a sixth-place finish but earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award for his vault from seventh on the grid to fourth on Lap 1.
While a Mazda driver took the Drivers' Championship, the 2012 Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship went to Honda, which finished the season with 99 points to Mazda's 81. Volkswagen was third with 56 points, followed by Volvo with 10 points.