On Heels of Impressive MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Season, Cooke Makes Switch to eEuroparts Audi GT4
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The wave of momentum for IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge driver Tyler Cooke hasn’t ebbed an inch since the offseason began just over one month ago.

Following a season with four podium finishes, seven top 10s and several stints worthy of a highlight reel, it was announced on Tuesday that Cooke would be making the switch from BimmerWorld Racing to eEuroparts.com Racing in the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class.

The move concludes Cooke’s six-year tenure with the BMW team, as he pairs up with co-driver Kenton Koch for a year-long campaign in an Audi R8 LMS GT4. eEuroparts first joined the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge in 2018 as part of the TCR class, expanding from one Audi RS3 LMS to two midway through the year. By the end of the season, the team had two victories, five podiums and five MOTUL Pole Awards.

“I’m excited for the eEuroparts opportunity,” said Cooke. “About two and a half weeks ago, I was looking at possibly not racing in IMSA, then I got a call from Matt Moran presenting this deal. The Audi R8 is a great platform and looks like it has good potential for success.

“I also will be alongside Kenton Koch, and he and I have been friends for some years now. The best part of us being paired up is I was Kenton’s spotter when he won the Rolex 24 (At Daytona in 2016). Matt is a racer and you can see that and hear that in his voice. He believes heavily in his team and himself and that’s exactly what drives a successful program. I’m looking forward to 2019.” 

While eEuroparts found success this past year in the TCR class, Cooke found success of his own with BimmerWorld and co-driver James Clay in the team’s first season in GS. 

Right out of the gate, at the season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona, Cooke navigated the team’s new No. 82 BMW M4 GT4 from eighth place to second with 20 minutes remaining in the four-hour enduro. The team’s runner-up finish showed the speed of the new BMW, as Cooke was able to knock off three different manufacturers in the closing laps.

“Daytona was a good way to start the year,” said Cooke. “Starting with a brand new car, there were a lot of new cars that got welcomed to the class and BMW was one of them. After we left the Roar, we were all wondering how competitive the BMW was actually going to be at Daytona. It turned out it was.

“Racing with guys like (Alexandre) Premat, (Scott) Maxwell, Trent Hindman, (Guy) Cosmo, guys like that, you’re racing with some of the best of the best in the world. To hold our own the first race out with a brand new car, that was something special.”

The team would add another podium finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course before taking on one of the more challenging weekends of the season at Watkins Glen, another four-hour endurance race that was run in temperatures that were close, if not over, 100 degrees.

Cooke, who took over the reins from Clay to close out the race, overcame a scorching hot car – which he estimates was somewhere around double the outside temperature – and a water bottle malfunction to bring home BimmerWorld’s second runner-up finish and third podium in four races. A diabetic, Cooke describes how he pushed himself both mentally and physically during his stint.

“It was taxing,” he said. “It wasn’t easy. I had to come through the field there as well and there was a lot of contact in that race. There was a lot of carnage and then (Kyle) Marcelli and I went side-by-side for almost an entire lap. I have a lot of respect for Kyle and I like racing against him and it was a good battle.

“When I got third, I was like ‘Alright, I can probably do better than this, let’s dig deep.’ I started digging deep, but I didn’t try pushing the car too hard. I just tried being consistent and that allowed me to get up to Owen (Trinkler in second place). I was able to get not even a bumper by Owen and I kind of squeezed him in the bus stop. I was able to pull the gap and kept that gap the whole time. I didn’t realize what a toll it took on my body until I took the checkered flag. I just started shaking because I was so dehydrated and heat exhausted.”

While incredibly taxing, it was another stellar performance by BimmerWorld and one that moved them into a tie for the GS championship with six rounds remaining. Yet while results faltered at the hands of bad luck following Watkins Glen, BimmerWorld capped off its season at Road Atlanta the way every team would wish – with a win.

“It was definitely a big deal,” said Cooke, who led the final 40 minutes of the race. “BMW noticed both of us for it, they wrote us emails with a huge congratulations. Overall, it was something that BimmerWorld and BMW needed. It was a long time coming and it finally happened, and it kept the team’s heads held high leading into the offseason.”

It was an emotional victory for everyone on the BimmerWorld crew, being Clay’s first win in the championship and the first win for Cooke since his father passed away in 2013. It was also a true team effort getting the No. 82 BMW in front of the pack. The crew, cheered on by those on the pit box, performed a flawless last stop that got Cooke and the No. 82 out of the pits by a nose over the leading No. 76 McLaren GT4 of Matt Plumb.

“A win on track is also a win for them,” Cooke said of the crew. “You can’t win a race unless a team is there. I can’t stand the drivers that think they won the race because of themselves, because they’re not working on the car and they’re not doing everything. It’s a team working on the car, the team putting everything together, the team making it happen. You’re just driving the car to the finish.”

The win moved up Cooke and Clay into third place in the final GS championship standings in what would be their final season together, a remarkable feat for a team that entered a new class with a new car just months prior.

“BimmerWorld has been the team I’ve been a part of since 2013,” said Cooke. “I can’t thank the team for all the hard work they put in and memories we created. James Clay really taught me a lot on how to better myself in my racing career and how to progress forward. I will always be thankful for the team.”