Cooper masters Barber to earn victory for Cadillac
Michael Cooper became the fifth winner in seven races in Pirelli World Challenge’s GT class, after holding off everything Alvaro Parente's McLaren could throw at him.
It was Cooper’s first GT win, it was hard earned, and it came after a classic battle as he and Parente’s cars had differing strengths around the 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Cadillac ATS V-R appearing to have a torque advantage off medium and slow speed turns while the McLaren 650S appeared better under braking and more stable over the much-used curbs here.
With the grid set by fastest lap in yesterday’s race, Parente started from pole but Cooper got the rolling start just right, and was able to drive around the outside of the Portuguese K-PAX driver at Turn 1, giving himself the inside line for the long Turn 2/3. Up the hill and down to the chicane at Turn 5, the Cadillac hugged the inside line to protect his lead, and thereafter nailed a brilliant opening lap to lead by over 1sec at the line.
By lap 4, that margin had grown to 2sec but it never went beyond that. With the pair of them pulling away from Cooper’s teammate Johnny O’Connell, they appeared to be in a battle of their own, and the gap opened and closed according to traffic. However, on a clear track, the McLaren was able to snip a couple of tenths here and there, and after Cooper was wrongfooted by a backmarker on lap 20, the lead shrank as low as 0.25sec.
But he worked hard at pulling away, and did so, helped by a small error from Parente who ran slightly wide on one turn.
In the mean time, the other Cadillac was coming into play. O’Connell had dropped five seconds behind Parente on lap 18, but having nursed his tires well, he then started closing in again, little by little. And he brought with him the EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 of Patrick Long who had been bottled up behind teammate Michael Lewis for the first dozen laps but then passed and pulled away.
In the closing minutes of the 50-minute race, the top four – Cooper, Parente, O’Connell and Long – ran roughly equidistant, about 0.7sec apart, and that’s the way they stayed to the checkers, aside from a last oh-so-close attempt by O’Connell to make it a Cadillac 1-2.
Lewis came home a lonely fifth, 11sec behind teammate Long, but 4sec clear of Bryan Heitkotter in the first of the Nissan Nismo GT-Rs, with Adderly Fong clinching seventh in the Bentley Continental.
He had a close call with the second GT-R, that of JD Davison, at the start of the race, when the Aussie tried an overly brave move down the inside at Turn 1, and got smacked up onto the inside curb by the big British beast.
Davison quickly dropped away but having often proved an aggressive attacker, he proved his merits in defense today, holding up the Audi R8 LMS of Kyle Marcelli, the second Bentley of Andrew Palmer and Andrew Davis’ Porsche almost throughout the 36 laps.
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