BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 28, 2016) – Just 65-thousandths of a second separated Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires championship contenders Clark Toppe and Austin Versteeg after practice Wednesday at Road Atlanta.
Should anyone be surprised?
JDC Motorsports teen teammates Toppe and Versteeg have been the class of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned Challenge Series through the first 12 rounds this season. That continued today through two practice sessions on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit at Road Atlanta.
Toppe, from The Woodlands, Texas, led overall at 1 minute, 21.094 seconds in the No. 10 JDC Motorsports entry. Versteeg, from Sandy, Utah, was second at 1:21.159 in the No. 7 JDC Motorsports Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine and racing on Cooper Tires.
“It’s really close between the both of us,” Toppe said. “It’s just like always. We’re always on the same tenth. JDC gives us great cars to run with, and we’re both always neck and neck. So it should be another fun weekend.”
Toppe leads Versteeg by five points, 202-197, with just Rounds 13 and 14 remaining this week as the season comes to a close. Versteeg, 17, has won seven races this season, while Toppe, 19, has four wins.
“I really tried to put the pressure and the situation out of my mind and tried to drive the best I can,” Toppe said. “Under the pressure situations, I seem to tighten up and not drive as well as I can. I’m just trying to have as much fun as I can and go out and race.”
Qualifying is set for 9:35 a.m. (ET) Thursday, followed by Round 13, a 30-minute race, at 1:20 p.m. Round 14, a 45-minute race, is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday.
Toppe and Versteeg showed extraordinary consistency – and a paper-thin margin between them – during the two practice sessions today. Versteeg led the morning practice at 1:21.159, followed by Toppe at 1:21.166. Toppe traded places in the afternoon, leading at 1:21.094 and followed by Versteeg at 1:21.176.
Kyle Masson, from Windermere, Florida, was third overall at 1:21.670 in the No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports entry.
Jon Brownson, from Breckenridge, Colorado, was fourth overall and led the Lites 1 Masters class at 1:21.880 in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry. Michael Whelden, from Sausalito, California, rounded out the top five at 1:22.218 in the No. 29 Extreme Speed Motorsports car.
Michal Chlumecky, from Windsor, Ontario, was second in Lites 1 Masters at 1:22.406 in the No. 31 Eurosport Racing entry. Lites 1 Masters championship leader Joel Janco, from Key Largo, Florida, was third in the class at 1:22.543 from the morning session but led the class in the warmer, slicker afternoon practice at 1:22.948 in the No. 25 JDC Motorsports entry.
Janco leads Gerhard Watzinger, 177-148, in the Lites 1 Masters standings as he tries to win his first championship. A driver can score a maximum of 20 points per race, so Janco’s 29-point lead creates a smooth path to the title.
“We’re trying to win both races,” Janco said. “That’s our goal. The championship seems to be under control for us. We want to win. We’re doing the best we can.”
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.
Qualifying: 9:35-9:55 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 29
Round 13 (30 minutes): 1:20-1:50 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29
Round 14 (45 minutes): 8-8:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30
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