MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 9, 2016) – The practice times Friday in Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires were reminiscent of the Lites 1 points standings. Close.
Clark Toppe, from The Woodlands, Texas, turned a top lap of 1 minute, 24.106 seconds in the No. 10 JDC Motorsports Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine and racing on Cooper Tires. His teammate and points leader Austin Versteeg, from Sandy, Utah, led the first practice session and posted the second quickest time overall at 1:24.282, just .176 of a second behind Toppe in the No. 7 JDC Motorsports machine.
“We definitely got a good idea of what the track has for us this weekend,” Toppe said. “We made a couple of changes. The car is good and I’ve got my bearing of the place. Hopefully I can carry my momentum into qualifying tomorrow.”
Qualifying starts at 8 a.m. (PT) Saturday, followed by Round 10, a 30-minute race, beginning at 1:20 p.m. Rounds 11 and 12, the final two races of the triple-header weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, will begin at 9:10 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., respectively on Sunday. Both Rounds 11 and 12 will be 45 minutes on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit that includes the iconic "Corkscrew" turn complex.
The three Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires races are part of the all-Mazda weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The weekend features four Mazda series with more than 80 drivers from 19 countries.
Versteeg leads Toppe by just two points in the Lites 1 Championship race, 154-152. Toppe comes off of a double-win weekend at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières in August. In those same two races Versteeg struggled and finished off the podium for the first time this season.
“Before GP3R I thought I was out of the championship and was looking towards next year already,” Toppe said. “But GP3R really brought me close and now I have a chance to win this thing again. I always try to go out there and do the best I can. JDC always give me the car to go out there and win and push myself with. I don’t think the mindset changes but it does boost me up a little bit and gives me some extra confidence knowing I’m right there.”
Versteeg and Toppe are trying this weekend to extend one of the most remarkable streaks in North American sports car racing. Their team, Minnesota-based JDC Motorsports, has won 27 consecutive Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires races dating back to August 2014.
Kyle Masson, from Windermere, Florida, was third overall at 1:24.379 in the No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports entry. Michael Whelden, from Sausalito, California was fourth in the No. 29 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry.
Whelden’s teammate, Max Hanratty, rounded out the top five at 1:25.211 in the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry.
Gary Gibson, from Libertyville, Illinois was the quickest Lites 1 Masters driver at 1:25.839 in the No. 13 Team Perfect Pedal car.
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