By on February 22, 2012

I received a press release from the Atlanta Motorsports Group this morning talking about their 2012 Speed World Challenge program. Press releases from SWC and Grand-Am teams usually boil down to one or two things: announcing recent race wins and/or crowing over the “signing” of drivers whose MASSIVE TALENT just happens to be accompanied by a half-million dollar budget courtesy of indulgent parents, a well-respected practice in the field of orthodontia, or smuggling bales of Acapulco Gold into short airfields in Texas.

This one was no different, except it had something in it about “MX-5 Cup Champion Michael Cooper.”

Wait a minute…

Long-time readers will recall how, confident in my ability to beat Maximum Bob by five or so seconds per lap, I stroked along and took an 0.7 second beating in the CTS-V Challenge by a mystery kid with a BMW M3. My impression of Michael Cooper at the time: nice kid, rich parents, Jersey Shore cast extra. To all of the above, you can now add considerable driving talent.

Fresh out of the CTS-V Challenge, Michael ran Mazdaspeed MX-5 Cup in 2010, winning pole position in his first race and picking up the series championship in 2011. He also drove with known Grand-Am Continental Challenge overdogs Freedom Autosport in 2011. For 2012, he will be in a Speed World Challenge Mazdaspeed3, driving with Atlanta Motorsports Group and contending for the series championship. Thus the press release, thus my surprise this morning.

Winning an MX-5 Cup season is no easy feat. There’s some funding required — I would guess somewhere in the range of $150,000 per season, assuming you don’t damage the car too much — but the majority of the drivers are very well-coached and quite talented. Speed World Challenge and the Continental Challenge are a step up from that in terms of cost and competition level, but anybody who expects to win either series in 2012 would be a fool to underestimate Michael.

Ask me how I know.

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