Top five stats from the Spanish Grand Prix

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Here are five top stats from last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Alonso’s home win hat-trick…

Fernando Alonso has now won a round of the world championship in his home country three times: the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in 2006 and 2013, and the European Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit in 2012.

He is the sixth driver to win his home race three times, joining Michael Schumacher (nine home wins), Alain Prost (six), Nigel Mansell (five), Jim Clark (five) and Juan Manuel Fangio (four).

Apart from when the Indianapolis 500 counted towards the world championship from 1950 to 1960, the only American driver to win at home was Mario Andretti in the 1977 United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach.

…scored from off the front row

Overtaking isn’t easy at the Circuit de Catalunya. Before Alonso’s win from fifth on Sunday the last driver to win the race starting off the front row was Michael Schumacher in the 1996 race, run in very wet conditions.

Nico Rosberg’s third pole position

Nico Rosberg started from pole position for the third time in his career. The 1979 world champion Jody Scheckter scored exactly three pole positions during his career, as did fellow former drivers Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Tony Brooks, Dan Gurney, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Elio de Angelis and Teo Fabi.

Gutierrez’s fastest lap

Esteban Gutierrez missed out on scoring his first F1 point by just three-tenths of a second. But he can console himself with the fact he set fastest lap.

Only one driver finished their F1 career having set fastest lap in a race but never scored a point: Briton Brian Henton, who set the quickest time during the 1982 British Grand Prix at Brands hatch, driving for Tyrrell.

Raikkonen keeps going

That’s 22 races in a row where Kimi Raikkonen has scored points. He needs two more to match Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 24. Alonso made it to 23 last year but was taken out in a first lap crash at the next race.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”