IMSA Lites: Summer stretch starts at The Glen

IMSA Lites: Summer stretch starts at The Glen

IMSA

IMSA Lites: Summer stretch starts at The Glen

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While the 2015 Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda season started in mid-March, it’s easy to argue the path to the championship starts June 25-27 at Watkins Glen International.

The series begins a crucial stretch of eight rounds in 10 weeks beginning with Rounds 5 and 6 during the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event at the historic circuit in upstate New York.

Teams and drivers are firing back to full speed on the 11-turn, 3.4-mile layout at Watkins Glen after a 10-week break since Round 4 on April 12 at NOLA Motorsports Park. Rounds 5 and 6 at The Glen are followed by two rounds apiece July 11-12 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Aug. 8-9 at Road America and Aug. 28-29 at VIRginia International Raceway.

Round 5, a 30-minute race, will start at 2:05 p.m. (ET) Friday, June 26 at Watkins Glen. The 45-minute Round 6 will start at 8:05 a.m. Saturday, June 27.

The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda is an official International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Development Series, providing thrilling action and cultivating future drivers for prototype racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Two classes of competition take drivers and teams down unique, exciting roads of prototype sports car racing, with all competitors racing in Élan DP02 chassis powered by Mazda engines and riding on Cooper Tires.

Nimble, high-tech, purpose-built Lites 1 machines pack in the power with a 230-horsepower, 2-liter Mazda engine designed to prepare aspiring professionals for prototype competition in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and offer a challenging environment for mature semi-professional drivers, including competition in a Masters Championship. Equally capable and cost-effective Lites 2 machines offer new competitors a perfect introduction to the world-class competition offered by IMSA.

The Lites 1 championship balance this season is very similar to when the series came to upstate New York in June 2014.

Mikhail Goikhberg had won three of the first four races of last season in a JDC Motorsports entry. The Glen was a perfect chance for his rivals to gain ground, but Goikhberg swept both rounds on the undulating track to strengthen his grip on the points lead and roll to an eventual Lites 1 championship.

JDC also boasts the dominant Lites 1 leader this season, Kenton Koch, who has won three of the first four rounds as a series rookie. Koch, 20, from Glendora, California, has finished second or better in all four starts and leads the Lites 1 championship with 78 points, 22 ahead of teammate Clark Toppe in second.

Toppe and the third member of the powerful JDC trio, Matt McMurry, will try to gain ground on Koch. Toppe, 17, from The Woodlands, Texas, is the only driver to beat Koch this season. He won Round 2 during the season-opening event at Sebring.

Other contenders for Lites 1 podium positions include Performance Tech Motorsports teammates Robert Alon and Austin Versteeg and ONE Motorsports standout John Falb.

Alon, from Encino, California, and Versteeg, from Sandy, Utah, each have earned a third-place finish this season and look to be among the strongest challengers to the JDC trio. Alon is fourth in the Lites 1 championship standings, with 15-year-old former karting sensation Versteeg seventh.

Falb, from Las Vegas, has converted consistent finishes in the first four rounds into fifth in the overall standings. Reigning Lites 1 Masters champion Falb has opened the defense of his title with three victories in four starts in that class.

Joel Janco, from Key Largo, Florida, has transferred an increased commitment to fitness into his strongest Prototype Lites season to date with Performance Tech Motorsports. Janco is just two points behind Falb in the Lites 1 Masters standings, 74-72, with four consecutive second-place finishes in the class and is sixth in the overall Lites 1 standings.

Series rookie Gerhard Watzinger, from Miami, and veteran Don Yount, from Dallas, are third and fourth in a competitive Lites 1 Masters championship after each scoring at least one podium finish this season in the class. Watzinger is third with 53 points in a ONE Motorsports entry, while Yount is fourth at 47 in his Yount Motorsports Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine.

Three drivers are leading the pack in the chase for the Lites 2 championship.

Todd Slusher, from Las Vegas, leads with 78 points after recording three victories in four starts in a ONE Motorsports prototype. Two-time defending Lites 2 champion Brian Alder, from Dublin, Ohio, has the other victory and is second with 66 points in his BAR 1 Motorsports entry.

John Salmon, from Lynchburg, Virginia, is benefiting from the consistency of racing the entire schedule this season and is third with 64 points in an ODU Engineering Race Team car.

This is the 10th season of Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda competition. IMSA sanctions a seven-venue, 14-round schedule for the 2015 season. The series runs 10 of its 14 rounds during TUDOR Championship events, providing plenty of high-profile visibility for teams and drivers at the largest sports car racing events in North America.

All events consist of 30-minute and 45-minute sprint races.

Follow IMSA on Facebook and @IMSA on Twitter with the hashtag #CTPL for updates on the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda. Live timing for every race is available at IMSA.com and on the new official IMSA mobile app available for iOS, Android and Windows.

Schedule

Practice: 8:45-9:15 a.m. and 12:25-1:05 p.m. (ET), Thursday, June 25

Qualifying: 9-9:20 a.m. Friday, June 26

Round 1 (30 minutes): 2:05-2:35 p.m. Friday, June 26

Round 2 (45 minutes): 8:05-8:50 a.m. Saturday, June 27

Race Coverage

Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com or on new IMSA mobile app for iOS, Android or Windows

Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive

For more information about Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #CTPL @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.

Source: IMSA

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