Double-shot of 24-hour races for nearly 20 drivers

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So last week was the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the midsummer endurance classic.

And what’s a better way to spend the next weekend than with another 24 hours?

For 18 drivers, they’re staying in Europe for another week, and another 24-hour race. The ADAC Zurich 24-Hour Race, or as it’s more commonly known, the 24 Hours of the Nurburging, follows a week after Le Mans and will see a wealth of talented drivers take to “the Green Hell.”

The 18 include two Le Mans winners. Overall winner Marcel Fassler, who co-drove the winning No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro with Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer, is entered in the No. 3 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra with co-drivers Marc Basseng, Frank Stippler and Laurens Vanthoor.

Additionally, GTE-Am class winner Nicki Thiim shifts from the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage to the No. 10 Prosperia C. Abt Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra he’ll share with Christopher Mies and Christer Jons.

Jeroen Bleekemolen, who co-drove with Cooper MacNeil at Le Mans, has two more drivers to support him at Nurburgring. The No. 1 Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 features Bleekemolen, Andreas Simonsen, Christian Menzel and Lance David Arnold behind the wheel.

Here’s the full entry list. In the meantime, below is a list of those doing the “24 double,” with their cars last week and now this week to monitor. An update after a double check reveals there’s a 19th driver doing the double, as well, that I forgot initially.

DRIVER		     LM24/CLASS
		     N24/CLASS
Jeroen Bleekemolen	79 ProSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 RSR/GTE-Pro
			1 Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3/SP 9 GT3
Marcel Fassler		2 Audi Sport Audi R18 e-tron quattro/LMP1
			3 Phoenix Audi R8 LMS Ultra/SP 9 GT3
Rene Rast		24 Loeb Oreca 03 Nissan/LMP2
			4 Phoenix Audi R8 LMS Ultra/SP 9 GT3
Patrick Pilet		91 Porsche 911 RSR/GTE-Pro
			6 Frikadelli-Racing-Team Porsche GT3 R/SP 9 GT3
Stefan Mucke	        97 AMR Aston Martin Vantage/GTE-Pro
			7 AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3/SP 9 GT3
Darren Turner	        97 AMR Aston Martin Vantage/GTE-Pro
			7 AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3/SP 9 GT3
Pedro Lamy		98 AMR Aston Martin Vantage/GTE-Am
			7 AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3/SP 9 GT3
Richard Westbrook	74 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R/GTE-Pro
			8 Haribo Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R/SP 9 GT3
Nicki Thiim		95 AMR Aston Martin Vantage/GTE-Am
			10 Prosperia C. Abt Racing GmbH Audi R8 LMS Ultra/SP 9 GT3
Abdulaziz Al Faisal	66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia/GTE-Am
			14 Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3/SP 9 GT3
Roman Rusinov		26 G-Drive Racing Morgan Nissan/LMP2
			17 G-Drive Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra/SP 9 GT3
Alvaro Parente          52 RAM Racing Ferrari F458 Italia/GTE-Pro
                        20 Dorr Motorsport McLaren 12C GT3/SP 9 GT3
Markus Palttala		75 ProSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 RSR/GTE-Am
			26 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3/SP 9 GT3
Pierre Ehret		70 Taisan Ferrari F458 Italia/GTE-Am
			29 GT Corse by Rinaldi Ferrari 458 Italia GT3/SP 9 GT3
Alexandre Imperatori	47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan/LMP2
			44 Falken Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R 997/SP 9 GT3
Nick Heidfeld		12 Rebellion R-One Toyota/LMP1
			80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3/SP 9 GT3
Lucas Ordonez		0 NISMO Global Nissan ZEOD RC/G56
			80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3/SP 9 GT3
Tristan Gommendy	46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan/LMP2
			121 Philippe Salini Seat Leon Supercopa/SP 3 T
Pierre Kaffer		71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia/GTE-Pro
			502 Audi race experience Audi R8 LMS Ultra/SP 9 GT3

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.”