SEBRING, Fla. — The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Series powered by Mazda returned to race mode at Sebring Int’l Raceway with a bang Thursday for the 61st annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh from Florida.
Daniel Goldburg of Performance Tech Motorsports was on the fast track leading the field to the green flag, and second and third place Ryan Booth and Sean Rayhall spent the first few laps jockeying for position.
Sean Rayhall’s No. 14 Comprent Motor Sports car started the event very strong. In fact, his best race lap of 1:59:375 eclipsed last year’s previous race record set by last year’s Series Champion Tristan Nunez. But despite setting a new Sebring race record, his L1 machine faltered while he and Booth were chasing down race leader Goldburg, and he ultimately was forced to retire his car.
“We were running good, obviously Dan (Goldburg) was in the lead but we were chasing him down and gaining every lap,” Rayhall said. “Unfortunately my shifter broke and I was stuck in fourth gear. We tried to bring it home and stay out there as long as possible but we weren’t gaining anything. It’s unfortunate that we had a mechanical failure but we’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
On lap 10, Lamont Harris of Comprent Motor Sports went into the tires in Turn 16 after turning his fastest lap of the race.
The field went back to green on lap 12, which gave Ryan Booth the opportunity he needed to put pressure on Daniel Goldburg for the lead. Unfortunately Booth ran out of time to chase his teammate down and Goldburg took the checkered flag for the first race of the season.
“My Performance Tech car was solid today,” Goldburg said. “I just tried to look forward and not watch the mirrors. At the end there my teammate Ryan Booth gave me a run and I had to put a couple wheels off in Turn 16 on the last lap. He kept me honest, but I held it together and I’m extremely pleased to come out with a win in the first race of the season.”
It was Goldburg’s second Prototype Lites career visit to victory circle at Sebring Int’l Raceway. He took home his first Series trophy at this circuit in 2011.
Second-place finisher Booth was hoping for a few more laps that would give him an advantage over Goldburg.
“I didn’t have a great start but I tucked in and tried to chase Goldburg down,” Booth said. “The double yellows at the end allowed me to get really close to him but he managed to hold me off.”
Mikhail Goikhberg, 2012 championship runner-up for Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, landed in the final spot on the podium.