Mazda Raceway Triple-Header Could Play Huge Role in Lites 1 Title Race
Three Days of Racing Sept. 9-11
There are only five races left in the 2016 Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires season, and just two points separate Lites 1 leader Austin Versteeg from second place Clark Toppe.
Three of those races will take place Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. So it’s not a stretch to call this the most pivotal race weekend of the season for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Official Development Series.
Round 10 is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit that includes the iconic and challenging “Corkscrew” turn complex. Rounds 11 and 12 are set to start at 9:10 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., respectively, on Sunday, Sept. 11. Round 10 is a 30-minute race, while Rounds 11 and 12 will be 45 minutes each.
Versteeg leads JDC Motorsports teammate Toppe, 154-152, in the Lites 1 championship standings. Versteeg, 17, from Sandy, Utah, carried a 134-112 advantage – more than a race worth of points, as the winner of each round earns 20 points – over Toppe entering Rounds 8 and 9 on Aug. 12-14 at Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
But Versteeg had a tough weekend in Quebec, finishing sixth in both races in the No. 7 JDC Motorsports Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine and racing on Cooper Tires. Those were his first finishes off the podium this season.
Toppe, 18, from The Woodlands, Texas, capitalized by winning both races in the No. 10 JDC Motorsports entry to loom large in his teammate’s rear-view mirror in the standings.
The duel between Versteeg and Toppe is tight in nearly every measure. Versteeg has won five races, Toppe four. Versteeg has finished off the podium just twice, while Toppe has stood on the podium in all but one race, Round 5 at Watkins Glen.
Versteeg and Toppe have combined to win every race this season, extending one of the most remarkable streaks in North American sports car racing. Minnesota-based JDC Motorsports has won 27 consecutive races in Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, a streak dating back to August 2014.
Other drivers who could threaten for podium positions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca include Extreme Speed Motorsports teammates Max Hanratty, Michael Whelden and James Dayson, and Performance Tech Motorsports rookie standout Kyle Masson.
Hanratty, from Milwaukee, has solidified third place in the standings with 130 points due to a consistent run of strong results in the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry. He has finished fifth or better in five of his last six starts, including his best series finish of second in Round 9 at Trois-Rivières.
Whelden is fourth with 114 points and will have extra motivation in the No. 29 Extreme Speed Motorsports car, as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is the closest track on the schedule to his home in Sausalito, California.
Masson, from Windermere, Florida, heads to northern California after his strongest event of the season. He finished second and third, respectively, in Rounds 8 and 9 at Trois-Rivières in the No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports entry. He is fifth in the standings with 103 points.
Dayson, from Vancouver, British Columbia, also brings momentum to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 12 Extreme Speed Motorsports car. He finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in the two rounds at Trois-Rivières and will seek his first career Prototype Lites podium at this event.
Joel Janco leads the competitive race for the Lites 1 Masters championship after sweeping both rounds in the class last month at Trois-Rivières in the No. 25 JDC Motorsports car. Janco has caught and passed Gerhard Watzinger in the standings, leading 125-110, with victories in three of his last four starts.
Gary Gibson, from Libertyville, Illinois, earned his first victory of the season in Round 9 at Trois-Rivières in the No. 13 Team Perfect Pedal entry. He is third in points with 96.
For more information about Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtags #MazdaLites and #MRT24 @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.