MILLVILLE, N.J. -Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., was the quickest in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup practice Friday morning at New Jersey Motorsports Park. At the end of a hot afternoon practice session for the Mazda Motorsports Festival presented by VISITFLORIDA.com, none of the fastest times had been improved, leaving Cooper atop the combined practice charts.
With less grip on the track as the temperatures soared into the upper 80’s and the humidity continued through the day, only one of 20 drivers (Richard Picut, of Garwood, N.J.) improved their times in the afternoon session.
Cooper turned a fast time of 1:34.285 (82.767 mph) around the 14-turn, 2.17-mile circuit to top the 30-minute morning practice in the No. 84 AMG/Bromante Landscaping & Design Mazda MX-5 and lead the day’s combined sheets.
“We made a set-up change Thursday afternoon [after the promoter test day] that we didn’t get to try until this morning,” Cooper said. “That, combined with a tow from my teammate Brad Rampelberg, really helped. This afternoon we made a few more changes, and if you wanted to post a good time, it had to be done in the morning session. I hit traffic and it didn’t happen, but it was great to put that time in this morning. Hopefully we can repeat it tomorrow.”
Typical of today’s conditions, Cooper was more than two seconds slower in the afternoon after a lap of 1:36.442 (81.002 mph).
“The heat was definitely in our minds this afternoon, and tried to make some changes to get the car where we wanted it for this weekend’s races,” Cooper said of the conditions that every driver was battling. “I think we have a really good idea of where we want it to be compared to our qualifying set-up.”
The Championship co-leaders sit in line behind Cooper. Brad Rampelberg, of San Jose, Calif., was second quickest in his No. 4 AMG/Mazda/Cobalt Brakes MX-5at 1:34.440 (82.719 mph), just 0.055-second behind Cooper.
Piscitell, of Weston, Conn., was third in the No. 89 Team MER/DAMG Worldwide Mazda MX-5, with a time of 1:34.537 (82.634 mph). Piscitell’s fast lap came late in the first session this morning.
Rampelberg and Piscitell are tied at 209 points entering this weekend’s doubleheader.
Lyonel Kent’s best time of 1:34.910 (82.310 mph) placed him fourth on the combined charts in the No. 13 ALARA Racing/Bulldog Productions MX-5.
Powell, Ohio’s Nick Evans was fifth on the combined charts in the No. 28 Mazda/Team MER/Sparco MX-5 with a best time of 1:34.940 (82.284 mph). Evans led the afternoon session, with a best time of 1:35.572 (81.379 mph), 0.532-second faster than his teammate Piscitell.
With Jeff Mosing third in the afternoon session in the No. 30 Team MER/Frank’s International/Race Now For Autism MX-5, Team MER swept the afternoon session in conditions similar to what are expected for both of this weekend’s races.
“The car was really good,” Evans said. “The temperature definitely got hot today in the afternoon. Team MER has been working on the car all day today and all day yesterday [on the promoter test day] and it keeps getting better. We’re in good shape for the race. Team MER was one-two-three in the race here in 2008, so I think we’re going to be ready to go.”
The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup has a qualifying session at 8:15 a.m. (EDT) to set the grid for Saturday afternoon’s race, the first of two races for the Series this weekend. To follow each session’s notes and timing, please visit www.mx-5cup.com.
Follow the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup on Twitter @ MazdaMX5Cup.