Michael Cooper: 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Drivers Champion
Race driver Michael Cooper is scrambling up the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder like a firefighter responding to a three-alarm blaze, quick-footed and with profound purpose. In an era when many prospects go from being strapped in to stroller to strapped into a kart, Michael, who hails from Syosset, New York, started at an older age but has advanced at lightning speed. In fact, where many emerging racers will have 400 or 500 races under their belt Michael has seen around 50 green flags.
Michael Cooper is the new model for how one can get into racing without any previous background, and without a large garage full of cars and equipment,” said John Doonan, Motorsports Director, Mazda North American Operations. “Michael started with a three-day Skip Barber Racing School in 2009, competed successfully within the Skip Barber school series and then came into the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup where he was an immediate front-runner. As a part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Ladder, his winning the 2011 MX-5 Cup championship earned him the Mazda scholarship support to move up to World Challenge this year. I can’t say enough about Michael and the Atlanta Motorsports Group effort this year. A 43-percent win rate with a 93-percent finish rate is just fantastic in this class. If not for unavoidable crash damage he would have completed every lap of every race.”
Michael put his MAZDASPEED Scholarship to good use jumping from the Playboy MX-5 Cup to the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge series in 2012 but since he had such a good working relationship with the Atlanta Motorsports Group the entire team made the move with him.
The results have been impressive as Michael power-shifted his Atlanta Motorsports Group #03 MAZDASPEED3 to six wins in 14 races. During the season-ending triple-header at Sonoma Raceway, Cooper finished third, second and ended the 2012 campaign with a flag-to-flag victory. As the only Mazda competing against a dozen Hondas and VWs, Cooper came close to giving Mazda a manufacturers’ championship as well. At the series awards dinner, Cooper also was recognized as the Touring Car Rookie-Of-The-Year and Atlanta Motorsports Group was named Touring Car Team-Of-The-Year.
In addition to his six wins, Cooper started from the pole in seven races, led 11 races, and led the most laps in six. He finished in the top-five in 13 of 14 races
“Johnny O’Connell is the World Challenge GT champion this year and he’s the one that told my dad to put me in a race car, that was only three years ago. To be standing here after winning two consecutive SCCA Pro Racing championships is just unbelievable. It started to hit me on the last few laps. It hit me a little, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet. I didn’t sleep much last night, I was going over this could happen, and that could happen. I’m just happy to be standing here,” said a jubilant Cooper after winning race and championship at Sonoma. “I couldn’t have done this without everyone at Mazda and Atlanta Motorsports Group. The incredible passion for what they do ensures success for all of their drivers. Having a car that is as fun to drive as the MAZDASPEED3, just adds to the thrill of victory and this championship.”
Things are looking up for Michael and he should be a force to be reckoned with where ever he lands in 2013.