Cooper Doubles Up At Exhibition Place
TORONTO – Michael Cooper swept rounds seven and eight in Touring Car class of the Pirelli World Challenge Acura Sports Car Challenge at Exhibition Place on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Joel Lipperini and Ernie Francis Jr. split the Touring Car B-Spec class wins in Toronto.
From his second Motul pole of the season in the No. 1 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 in TC, Cooper controlled both races from start-to-finish. He led every lap in both Round 7 and Round 8 to win his seventh and eighth career races in Pirelli World Challenge. He won six races en route to the TC class championship in 2012.
“I want to first off dedicate both races to Tom Cooke, who is fighting cancer right now,” said Cooper, paying tribute to a friend. “There was pressure from different guys at different points, but we did well at different points on the day.”
Meanwhile, Lipperini, in the No. 81 RaceLabz Honda Fit, scored his second straight TCB win in Round 7 with a flag-to-flag run. Francis Jr., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda 2, rebounded from a post-qualifying penalty that dropped him to the back of the field, to recover to finish second in round seven and score his fourth win of 2013 in round eight.
In race one Cooper, the lone Mazda entered in TC this weekend, led a fleet of Honda Civic Sis from the start.
“The team got the car back together for qualifying, and it was good enough off the trailer to get pole,” said Cooper. “They helped make it better for today. It was just about keeping the pressure off from behind.”
The battle throughout the race was behind him between the M&S Racing and Compass360 Racing Civics, for second on back.
Contact between Jon Miller in the No. 68 Titan Motorsports/Loudbasstard Honda Civic Si and Brett Sandberg in the No. 70 C360R/GearTie.com/HPD Honda Civic Si, at turn one on lap four triggered the first full course caution of the race.
The two were battling for fourth place and Miller needed to use the escape road through Princes’ Gate to rejoin the track; unfortunately for Sandberg, his race was over.
Cooper got the jump on the restart and the other two Compass360 Civics, driven by Ryan Winchester and Remo Ruscitti, respectively, sandwiched Tom Kwok in a three-wide battle for second on lap seven.
Winchester in the No. 72 C360R/Ligion Industries/HPD Honda Civic Si and Ruscitti in the No. 71 C360R/Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si split Kwok in the No. 89 M&S Quality Produce Honda Civic Si. Winchester made it through while Kwok got back around Ruscitti to maintain third.
For that move, Winchester secured the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award. He also took home the Optima Batteries Best Start as he moved from third to second off the line, before Kwok passed him back.
Ruscitti had a spin on lap 11, which dropped him to an unfortunate ninth place finish in round seven.
Behind the top three, Kwok’s brother Gary Kwok in the No. 90 M&S Quality Produce Honda Civic Si finished fourth and Miller recovered to fifth, from as far back as ninth, for Shea Racing. Gary Kwok took home the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after advancing from eighth to fourth.
Lipperini, meanwhile, inherited the Motul pole in TCB after Francis Jr.’s car was found to not be in compliance. He led flag-to-flag for his second straight win, and regained his lead despite the caution that had wiped it out.
“It would have been much nicer to not have the caution; it would have been a little more relaxed,” said Lipperini. “We tried a different tire strategy for race one, and I think it paid off for us. We had a strong car the whole race, and I’m glad the crew talked me into doing this.”
Lipperini’s round seven was fairly straightforward but Francis Jr. began his charge from 11th on the grid from the green flag. He was up to seventh after the first lap, fifth by Lap 8 and around his father, Ernie Francis Sr., for second on the last lap.
Francis Jr.’s charge netted him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award for Round 7. The elder Francis posted his second podium of the season in the No. 2 Breathless Performance Mazda 2 in third place.
Behind them, David Alejandro had the best finish of his season in fourth place, driving the No. 99 ClaimsSupportInc.com Mazda 2. Robbie Davis, of Dallas, TX, started second in the No. 37 MINI of Charleston Racing MINI Cooper, but finished fifth. Davis entered round seven as the TCB class points leader.