Michael Cooper swept Rounds 7 and 8 in Touring Car for the Pirelli World Challenge Acura Sports Car Challenge, part of the Honda Indy 200 at Toronto weekend. Meanwhile, Joel Lipperini and Ernie Francis Jr.split the Touring Car B-Spec class wins in Toronto.
From his second 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 7 and score his fourth win of 2013 in Round 8.
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 1 on Lap 4 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 7.
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 7.
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 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 7 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, started second in the No. 37 MINI of Charleston Racing MINI Cooper, but finished fifth. Davis entered Round 7 as the TCB class points leader.
The grid for Round 8 was set on the finishing order in Round 7, with Cooper (TC) and Lipperini (TCB) starting on pole.
The same story applied to Cooper as in race one, as the field closed back up on him after another caution, but he held off the Civics behind him after a restart. Behind him, there were several instances of contact in TC.
On Lap 1, there were two separate incidents. Ruscitti, Miller and Gary Kwok all made contact heading into Turn 1, and continued, while in Turn 3, Alain Lauziere, Jonathan Young and Ruscitti all had contact in Turn 3.
Kwok and his teammate Young, in the No. 91 M&S Quality Produce Honda Civic Si, were forced to retire after the first lap. Meanwhile, Lauziere in the No. 47 MINI Genuine Parts/Castrol/RMW MINI Cooper S JCW, advanced up to fourth place in class.
Ruscitti still emerged from the chaos in fifth place at the end of Lap 1, advancing from ninth. That gain secured him the Optima Batteries Best Start Award.
Neither of the first lap incidents triggered a full course caution. But Lauziere's luck ran out later in the race, at Turn 3, with contact on lap 7 bringing out the first and only caution of Round 8.
Cooper, Tom Kwok and Winchester restarted first through third, where they were once the caution flew -- all three remained in their positions, but a charging Miller came close to scoring his elusive first podium finish of the season. The charge ended for the Shea Racing driver though after he needed to use the Turn 1 escape road again to avoid potential calamities ahead of him Miller finished fourth. Ruscitti finished fifth.
The TCB battle, meanwhile, was intense all race between Lipperini and Francis Jr. Lipperini held off Francis Jr.'s attempts, either to the inside or outside going to Turns 1 and 3, but only for the first half of the race.
On lap 10, after a restart, Francis Jr. finally got around Lipperini, and Davis followed suit. Francis Jr.'s move netted him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award for the second time in as many races.
“It was a great day,” said Francis Jr. “I had to start from back in first race. I knew I couldn't wreck my car because I had the second race to do.”
It was a needed second place finish for Davis after his fifth place in Round 7, while Lipperini scored his third straight podium finish in third place. Davis took home two awards: the Sunoco Hard Charger Award (he started fourth) and the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award for his move from fourth to second on Lap 10.
Francis Sr. finished fourth, while P.J. Groenke in the No. 66 Mulligan Gold/Tundra/Verax.ca Honda Fit recorded his best finish of the 2013 season on home soil, in fifth place.
Results are provisional. Unofficially, Winchester has increased his points lead in TC to 221 points over Sandberg (974-753) with Ruscitti third on 709, and Miller fourth on 656. The TCB points battle between Francis Jr. and Davis is intense; Francis Jr. now leads Davis by just 38 points, 849-817. Lipperini is third with 764 points.
The Acura Sports Car Challenge races will be broadcast August 18 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network.
After a two-week break, the Pirelli World Challenge TC and TCB classes resume at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course August 2-4.
For more information on the series go to World-Challenge.com or follow on Twitter @WCRacing.