Prototype Lites: Versteeg, Chlumecky pull off double at Watkins Glen

Prototype Lites: Versteeg, Chlumecky pull off double at Watkins Glen

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Prototype Lites: Versteeg, Chlumecky pull off double at Watkins Glen

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Austin Versteeg and Michal Chlumecky swept the overall and Lites 1 Masters victories, respectively, in Rounds 3 and 4 of Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires on July 1 at Watkins Glen International.
 
Versteeg, from Sandy, Utah, took the Lites 1 championship lead with his second and third victories of the season in the No. 7 JDC Motorsports entry.
 
Chlumecky, from Windsor, Ontario, celebrated Canada Day by earning his first victories in Lites 1 Masters since April 2014 in the No. 31 Eurosport Racing Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine and racing on Cooper Tires.
 
Versteeg’s two victories in the 30-minute races continued an impressive streak for Minnesota-based JDC Motorsports. The team has won 22 consecutive Prototype Lites races dating back to August 2014.
 
Round 5, a 45-minute race, starts at 8:05 a.m. (ET) Saturday on the 11-turn, 3.4-mile circuit. This is one of two events this season featuring three rounds for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned Official Development Series.
 
ROUND 3
 
Lites 1 podium finishers (from left): Max Hanratty, Austin Versteeg, Clark Toppe

Versteeg rallied from a sluggish start to earn his second victory of the season, beating teammate Clark Toppe to the finish by 1.771 seconds.

 
“I really have to thank everyone who surrounds me,” Versteeg said. “JDC Motorsports and my driver coach, Jonatan Jorge with JJRD. These guys just surround me with such good equipment, and you feel obligated to go out and push as hard as you can every lap.”
 
Max Hanratty, from Milwaukee, finished third in the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry to earn his first career podium finish in the series. Kyle Masson, from Windermere, Florida, was fourth in the No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports car.
 
Andreas Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, rounded out the top five in his first career series start in the No. 43 Performance Tech Motorsports entry.
 
Toppe, from The Woodlands, Texas, passed pole sitter Versteeg in Turn 1 after the green flag and pulled away in the No. 10 JDC Motorsports entry, with Versteeg dropping to third behind Masson five minutes into the race.
 
Austin Versteeg started both races from the pole.

But Versteeg passed Masson 11 minutes into the race and set his sights on Toppe, who was nearly two seconds ahead. Versteeg cut that gap to 1.051 seconds halfway through the 30-minute race and gained another half-second on the next lap.

 
Versteeg pulled to within .259 of a second of Toppe with 10 minutes left and made his decisive move with six minutes left, passing Toppe for the lead in Turn 6. He never surrendered the top spot thereafter.
 
“I had a little mishap at the start,” Versteeg said. “Just messed up a little bit, but I knew we had the long-term pace, as well, and we could be consistent. I was pretty far behind first, but the guys gave me a really good car for the long run, and I can’t thank them enough.”
 
Said Toppe: “I got out front in the start, but Austin was battling with Kyle and caught up. We had a little bit of a battle, but I didn’t have much for him, and he ran away with it. He did a great job today.”
 
Lites 1 Masters
 
Lites 1 Masters podium finishers (from left): Don Yount, Michal Chlumecky,
Todd Slusher

Chlumecky, from Windsor, Ontario, earned his first Lites 1 Masters victory since April 2015 at NOLA Motorsports Park. He edged Todd Slusher, from Las Vegas, by .396 of a second after a spirited, see-saw duel.

 
Series veteran Chlumecky started from pole in the No. 31 Eurosport Racing entry but spun early in the race in Turn 1, handing the lead to Slusher’s No. 62 ONE Motorsports car.
 
But Chlumecky worked his way back through the field to challenge Slusher. Chlumecky passed Slusher to regain the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, making the decisive move after exiting the Esses complex of turns before the back straightaway.
 
“I was monitoring my progress, and I noted that I was clearly faster going up those Esses, so I was working my way up to make the move at that location,” Chlumecky said. “It seemed like the best opportunity for me.
 
Definitely exciting making my way back up. What a wonderful track, and the guys did a fantastic job putting the car together, as well.”
 
Don Yount, from Dallas, finished third in the No. 27 BAR1 Motorsports entry. It was his first start of the season and his first podium finish since last August at Road America.
 
ROUND 4
 
Lites 1 podium finishers (from left): Kyle Masson, Austin Versteeg, Clark Toppe

Versteeg used a carbon-copy performance of his victory in Round 3 to win Round 4, which started in very light rain that subsided in the early laps.

 
“The team gave me the car to do it,” Versteeg said. “My driver coach, Jonatan Jorge, gave me the confidence to do it, and I had the confidence in myself to do it. It was just a matter of pushing all the way through.”
 
Toppe finished second, 4.962 seconds behind Versteeg. Masson earned his first career series podium finish by placing third.
 
Hanratty finished fourth after another race-long duel with Masson, just .298 of a second off the final podium spot. Michael Whelden, from Sausalito, California, rounded out the top five in the No. 29 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry.
 
Versteeg started from the pole, but he was sandwiched between Toppe on the outside and Masson on the inside entering Turn 1 after the green flag. Toppe kept his foot on the gas the longest, taking the lead on the outside of Turn 1, known as “The Ninety.”
 
But Versteeg quickly regained his tempo and started to reel in Toppe. His charge was helped by a one-lap full-course caution period eight minutes into the race, pulling him on Toppe’s rear bumper for the restart.
 
Toppe resisted Versteeg’s pressure on the restart. But Versteeg passed Toppe for the lead on the second lap after the restart and pulled away.
 
“It’s great racing with Clark,” Versteeg said. “If you were to sit in our pit through the whole weekend, him and I are always goofing off off track. But we have respect for each other on the track, give each other room when it’s needed. It’s really fun. I’ve raced with him in karting, and it’s really interesting to see where we are now.”
 
Masson and Hanratty swapped third place multiple times in an exciting joust. Masson passed Hanratty on the penultimate lap and hung on to his coveted first podium finish.
 
“I learned from the last race,” Masson said. “Max and I were battling in the last race, and we were experimenting with a few things with some passes in the chicane. This time the same situation came up, and I knew what to do differently and I took advantage of it. It was good, hard racing; it was fun. It’s a good feeling to get your first podium.”
 
Lites 1 Masters
 
Lites 1 Masters podium finishers (from left): Naj Husain, Michal Chlumecky,
Don Yount

The veteran Eurosport Racing crew made technical changes to Chlumecky’s car in anticipation for heavier rain that didn’t come, but Chlumecky still powered to victory.

 
“We put on some dive planes,” Chlumecky said. “We thought the track would be a lot greener and perhaps a little bit wetter, so we dialed in some front dive planes and dialed in the rear wing. Still worked, but it certainly docked the car a little bit up the hill, and in a straight line we were struggling a little bit to keep our speed up. But otherwise it was great. The track was green this afternoon and we struggled, but we had a lot of fun.”
 
Yount led Chlumecky by .822 of a second with nine minutes remaining. But Chlumecky closed that gap to .329 of a second on the next lap and passed Yount for the lead with about six minutes remaining, holding on to win by .342 of a second.
 
“Working with Don out there was quite a challenge trying to figure out when to make a move, but he provided the opportunity and I had to take it,” Chlumecky said.
 
Naj Husain, from Great Falls, Virginia, finished third in the No. 3 Extreme Speed Motorsports to earn his second podium finish of the season.
 
ROUND 3 POST-RACE QUOTES
 
AUSTIN VERSTEEG (No. 7 JDC Motorsports, winner): “I really have to thank everyone who surrounds me. JDC Motorsports and my driver coach, Jonatan Jorge with JJRD. These guys just surround me with such good equipment, and you feel obligated to go out and push as hard as you can every lap. I had a little mishap at the start. Just messed up a little bit, but I knew we had the long-term pace, as well, and we could be consistent. The other cars are really fast on the backstretch, and I was struggling to pull up on them a little bit. But just had to make it on the infield (section). Everyone ran a really good race. That was a push. I was pretty far behind first, but the guys gave me a really good car for the long run, and I can’t thank them enough.”
 
CLARK TOPPE (No. 10 JDC Motorsports, second): “I guess I didn’t really have the pace in the beginning. I got out front in the start, but Austin (Versteeg) was battling with Kyle (Masson) and caught up. We had a little bit of a battle, but I didn’t have much for him, and he ran away with it. He did a great job today. The track was pretty quick today. A lot quicker than I actually anticipated, and I only found that out when I was behind Austin. So we’ll give it another shot this afternoon.”
 
MAX HANRATTY (No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports, third): “I just want to thank Extreme Speed Motorsports and Synercomm for giving me the opportunity. The crew has been great all weekend. We’ve been improving pace and fixing the car, and I think we’re looking real good going into the next two races. I think we have may have moved up in starting positions based on our best time here, but we’ll see. We’ll keep moving forward and trying to improve.”
 
MICHAL CHLUMECKY (No. 31 Eurosport Racing, winner, Lites 1 Masters): “We had a good start. Unfortunately, I looped it in Turn 1 early on and was able to recover and then make my way back up the track. So I was able to recover at least some positions and get myself closer to where I started. Definitely exciting making my way back up. What a wonderful track, and the guys did a fantastic job putting the car together, as well.” (Where did you make the decisive pass for the Masters’ lead?): “It was up the Esses, just up into the Bus Stop. I was monitoring my progress, and I noted that I was clearly faster going up those Esses, so I was working my way up to make the move at that location. It seemed like the best opportunity for me.”
 
ROUND 4 POST-RACE QUOTES
 
AUSTIN VERSTEEG (No. 7 JDC Motorsports, winner): “None of those starts or restarts were to plan, but we’ll keep working on those. I’m still learning, still really young in the game. But I knew as soon as the start and restart we had to push as hard as we could. The team gave me the car to do it. My driver coach, Jonatan Jorge, gave me the confidence to do it, and I had the confidence in myself to do it. It was just a matter of pushing all the way through. After the rain, the track was definitely different. A lot more physical than race one, I think. So we’ll try to get some rest, eat some spaghetti or something and hopefully do the same thing tomorrow. It’s great racing with Clark (Toppe). If you were to sit in our pit through the whole weekend, him and I are always goofing off off track. But we have respect for each other on the track, give each other room when it’s needed. It’s really fun. I’ve raced with him in karting, and it’s really interesting to see where we are now.”
 
CLARK TOPPE (No. 10 JDC Motorsports, second): “The car fell off a little bit today, but just like always, JDC gave me an awesome car. I can’t thank Puzzle Partner and my parents enough for the opportunity to be here. Second place is still good points, and it all adds up in the end.” (Did the weather have any effect on this race): “Not really. The track was pretty much dry all the way around. I was getting some rain on the visor, but it wasn’t changing the track.”
 
KYLE MASSON (No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports, third): “I learned from the last race. Max (Hanratty) and I were battling in the last race, and we were experimenting with a few things with some passes in the chicane. This time the same situation came up and I knew what to do differently, and I took advantage of it. It was good hard racing; it was fun. It’s a good feeling to get your first podium. I want to thank Brent O’Neill and the Performance Tech crew for providing a competitive car that allowed me to perform and reward them with a podium finish. They work so hard and deserve this. I also want to thank my parents for their continued support in this journey to fulfill this crazy dream of mine.”
 
MICHAL CHLUMECKY (No. 31 Eurosport Racing, winner, Lites 1 Masters): “We put on some dive planes. We thought the track would be a lot greener and perhaps a little bit wetter, so we dialed in some front dive planes and dialed in the rear wing. Still worked, but it certainly docked the car a little bit up the hill, and in a straight line we were struggling a little bit to keep our speed up. But otherwise it was great. The track was green this afternoon and we struggled, but we had a lot of fun. Working with Don (Yount) out there was quite a challenge trying to figure out when to make a move, but he provided the opportunity and I had to take it.”
 
Race Coverage
 
Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA App for iOS, Android and Windows
 
Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive
 
For more information about Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, visit http://www.imsa.com, follow hashtags #MazdaLites and #MRT24 @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.
 
Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires
 
Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, an International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Challenge Series, is in its 11th season in 2016. The series provides thrilling action and grooms drivers for future WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in the Prototype and Prototype Challenge classes.
 
The two classes of competition in the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires series take drivers and teams down unique, exciting roads of prototype sports car racing. 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 WeatherTech 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.
 
For more information about Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, visit http://www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #MazdaLites @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.
 
About IMSA
 
The International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) was originally founded in 1969 and owns a long and rich history in sports car racing. Today, IMSA is the sanctioning body of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the premier sports car racing series in North America. IMSA also sanctions the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, as well as four single-make series: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama; Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama; Ferrari Challenge North America; and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. IMSA – a company within the NASCAR family – is the exclusive strategic partner in North America with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) which operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The partnership enables selected IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. For more information, visit http://www.IMSA.com, http://www.twitter.com/IMSA or http://www.facebook.com/IMSA.

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