Sweeping both SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires races on the streets of Houston wasn’t enough for Kenton Koch. He put the exclamation point on the statement he made in Texas with a double victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ont., over the weekend.
Koch, of Glendora, Calif., led Saturday’s Round 7 from start to finish. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Ala., and Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, completed the podium.
In his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich® Tires MX-5, Koch made a clean start to take the lead into Turn 1 of the 45-minute race that averaged 83.631mph around the 10-turn, 2.459-mile circuit. The race was slowed by a full-course yellow that lasted four laps as a result of James Vance stalling at the start.
“Sparky [Sparks] and I had a really good run out there,” Koch said. “We were able to work together to gap the rest of the pack. That made our job a lot easier. I was content with either first or second, since John [Dean] was a little further back. I’m just focusing on staying clean and getting the most points I can.
“When the yellow flag came out, I got really lucky. I knew I was going to need to do something really special coming out of Turn 5 to keep Sparks behind me at the end of the straight. He really did a great job.”
Sparks notched his third consecutive podium of the season. He was able to stay glued to Koch’s bumper throughout the entire 26-lap race and reset the race-lap record to 1:35.473 (92.721mph).
“Kenton’s car and mine were working very similarly the whole time,” Sparks said. “We were fast in many of the same places, especially coming out of Turn 5. On the back straight we were able to run very efficiently, allowing us to pull away from the other guys battling further back. I was pushing Koch to make a mistake, but we both just ran solidly. It’s what you expect from the caliber of driver we have in this series.”
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class, Lucas Bize, of New York, claimed the top step of the podium. After starting second in class, Bize dropped as far back as sixth, but clawed his way back through the field. On lap 22, he got around Robby Foley to take the lead and eventual win.
On Sunday, Koch led every lap but one. Sebastian Landy, of Great Falls, Va., finished second, just off Koch’s rear bumper. Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, finished third.
The race ran without incident and averaged 91.543mph. The only other driver to lead at the stripe was Sparks, who was unable to finish the race due to a mechanical problem.
Koch led a two-car breakaway that started on lap 6 and gapped the field by 20 seconds.
“The whole time I was trying to experiment a little,” Koch said. “I was thinking hard to figure out how to break the draft Landy was getting on the back straight.
“At the beginning, we had a couple really good battles where we traded positions back and forth with Sparks and Landy. Huge props to Landy for working together so we could break away, making it easier for the both of us. He drove one heck of a race. There wasn’t anything I could do to shake him.”
Landy matched each move Koch made, but was unable to capitalize by taking the top spot. Each time the tandem of Koch and Landy crossed the timing line, there was less than one car length separating the two drivers.
“I kept running out of space in Turn Five,” Landy said. “I think we had something for him [Koch], so it’s a little disappointing not to get a win. The car was great, and was the best it had been all weekend. It was one of the best cars that I’ve had the chance to drive.”
Malkhassian clinched his first podium finish of the season, but it was not easy. Starting from third, he was down to 10th spot by the end of lap one. He then went on a tear, gaining seven positions over the next eight laps. Malkhassian was back in third by lap 11 and held the position for the remainder of the race, save three laps in which John Dean was in front of him.
Bize also swept the weekend, winning the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge.
With two consecutive race weekend sweeps, Koch extended his points lead over Dean. Koch left CTMP with 496 Championship points. Dean trails by 55 markers, followed by Landy with 396 points. In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge Championship, Drake Kemper holds the point lead with 453. Ben Albano sits 10 markers behind, with Robby Foley in third having collected 423 points.
The Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires sees action next at Road America on Aug. 8-10.