Cooper reflects on MX-5 Championship
When your only expectations of a racing season are to continue to learn and drive as fast as possible, the season is bound to be a success. Indeed, a driver that takes that simple goal, grows throughout the winter and even more during the season, and leaves 2011 as the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup champion has exceeded all expectations and is well on his way to a long and successful racing career.
This year, Mike Cooper is that driver. Unlike many young racers, the 22-year-old Cooper didn’t grow up at the racetrack. Counting two seasons of MX-5 Cup competition, his racing experience totals, well, two seasons of MX-5 Cup competition.
After a driving school, Cooper ran three weekends of the Skip Barber MX-5 Series during the winter of 2010, and decided to run the MX-5 Cup season with Atlanta Motorsports Group just a couple of weeks before the season began. Cooper won once and finished third in the points as a rookie, then won the 2011 opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his No. 6 AMG Racing Mazda MX-5 to cement himself as a real contender for the season-long title.
The year of experience clearly made a difference for the Syosset, New York, native. It was early in the season when Cooper decided he might have a real shot at a championship, going on to five wins, two additional podium finishes, and six pole positions in a hotly contested season.
The season's most important lesson may be that a driver who didn’t grow up on the path to Formula One can begin a professional career in the affordable SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup.
Now the NYIT business school student is working on the next step of his career, which includes a funded ride up the MazdaSpeed Motorsports ladder, thanks to his championship.