Cooper Takes GTS Title, Wilson Wins at Laguna Seca

by Jake Kilshaw

Kris Wilson won the final GTS round of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but it was Michael Cooper of Blackdog Speedshop in 10th position who becomes 2015 GTS champion.

Jack Baldwin got a clean run at the standing start, but there was a multi-car pile-up behind him when Mark Wilkins stalled on the line, only to be hit by Freddie Hunt. Also collected was Vesko Kozarov, and so a full-course caution was called.

The restart was single file, and Kris Wilson was able to pass Baldwin at the Andretti Hairpin. Behind them, Ben Clucas and Andrew Aquilante were sitting in third and fourth. Meanwhile, Cooper decided to play it safe and not to go on the offensive, and so he happily gave up sixth position on the restart.

On lap 13, Aquilante made a successful overtake on Clucas for third, whilst Wilson had increased his lead to more than a second over Baldwin. At the same time, Cooper was still dropping down the field, but with a strong championship lead, he just needed to finish with points.

At the finish, Kris Wilson had a lead of 2.3 seconds over Jack Baldwin, whilst Andrew Aquilante, Ben Clucas and Andy Lee completed the top five. Michael Cooper scored a tenth place finish, 39 seconds down, to win the championship.

“There is no sense looking back on the season.  I knew what the plan was at the beginning.  I wasn’t going to run all of the races this year,” said Wilson. “Of course, to win five races and the most in the series is great and it speaks very highly of the race team.  I would like to put together a program that we can go for a championship. The Aston Martin is a sensational car.  And today it was fun to drive.  It’s a great way to finish the year with a win.”

“Today I was sitting on the grid and looking at the back of the Kia (Wilkins) and saying,  ‘He’s going to stall. I need to go right.’ And of course, that happened and I didn’t get a good start,” said Cooper. “After that I what just the manage our position and grab enough points for the championship.  I wasn’t with Blackdog in their first two championships but this team is a dynasty. There know what they are doing.  They have a consistent and reliable car always.  I want to thank Blackdog Speedshop and Chevrolet. 

“This championship feels different than in Touring Car.  This comes after two years of being in and out of racing. It’s definitely sweet.  After I won the title in 2012, I thought I had a ride but things switched.  And I changed my focus too.  I was getting some calls but nothing on a regular basis.  I was getting in and out of a car about every six months for a year and a half was tough going.  Just getting a car cold is hard.  Especially something that’s faster than you have driven is a challenge.  Clearly I did well enough to get this ride this year.”

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