For the third time, the Mazda Motorsports Development driver wins in his debut in a category at Sebring.
A year ago at Sebring, Kenton Koch stepped into an MX-5 Cup car for his first race in the category and won. He had performed a similar feat a year earlier in this Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge debut. Now, in his first race in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, he’s done it again. Koch led from start to finish to capture Round 1 of the season Thursday at Sebring International Raceway.
Koch, 20, from Glendora, Calif., started from pole and won under a caution period triggered by separate incidents on the same lap with about eight minutes remaining in the 30-minute race. Two other young series rookies joined Koch on the Lites 1 podium in their series debuts. Clark Toppe, 17, from The Woodlands, Texas, finished second to give JDC Motorsports a 1-2 result to open the defense of its Team Championship. Frenchman Nico Jamin, 19, who lives in Coconut Creek, Fla., placed third for ANSA Motorsports.
Koch had built a lead of 6.274 seconds in the No. 60 JDC Motorsports entry when Ludovico Manfredi and Christian Potolicchio crashed in Turn 17 in separate incidents with about eight minutes remaining. The debris field was too large to clean before time expired in the 30-minute race. Manfredi and Potolicchio were unhurt and cleared to drive in Race 2 Friday.
While Koch cruised to victory, a fierce battle for the final two podium spots unfolded on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit.
Potolicchio, Toppe and Robert Alon dueled for second and third in between caution periods, with Potolicchio and Toppe making contact on the front straightaway. Potolicchio and another car made contact with about 12 minutes remaining, giving Toppe second.
Jamin climbed from fifth to third over the closing laps.