Goikhberg Locks Up Prototype Lites Title

Mikhail Goikhberg has earned a TUDOR United SportsCar Championship seat thanks to his Cooper Tires Prototype Lites championship. (IMSA Photo)
Mikhail Goikhberg captured Saturday's Cooper Tires Prototype Lites event at Virginia Int'l Raceway to lock up the series championship. (IMSA Photo)
Mikhail Goikhberg captured Saturday’s Cooper Tires Prototype Lites event at Virginia Int’l Raceway to lock up the series championship. (IMSA Photo)

ALTON, Va. – Mikhail Goikhberg and Brian Alder sealed Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda season championships in style with victories in round 11 Saturday at Virginia Int’l Raceway.

Goikhberg clinched his first Lites 1 season title with his seventh victory of the season in the No. 10 JDC Motorsports entry. He held off pole sitter Andrew Novich by .214 of a second at the finish after a fierce final-lap charge by Novich in the No. 61 Comprent Motor Sports entry.

“We’re the champions,” Goikhberg said. “I don’t care what happened in the race, I’m just as happy as I could be. It took longer than I thought, but now it’s done. I’m so happy. There just aren’t any words at this time to describe my emotions. I’m really, really happy.”

Alder earned his second consecutive Lites 2 championship in the No. 22 BAR1 Motorsports entry.

Goikhberg earned the title in his third season in the IMSA Development Series with JDC Motorsports. Goikhberg finished a distant second to Tristan Nunez in the championship in 2012 and a close third behind Sean Rayhall and Ryan Booth in 2013.

“Life teaches you sometimes you just have to wait for good things to happen,” Goikhberg said. “It’s really gratifying to have done this over the three years with the same group of guys at JDC Motorsports.”

Matt McMurry finished third in the No. 20 JDC Motorsports entry, 1.717 seconds behind his winning teammate. It was second consecutive podium finish for McMurry, 16, who was runner-up in Round 10 two weeks ago at Road America.

Robert Alon finished fourth in the No. 9 Performance Tech entry. Enzo Potolicchio rounded out the top five and was the first Masters (age 40 and over) finisher in the No. 4 8Star Motorsports Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine.

Goikhberg passed Novich for the lead early in the 45-minute race during which the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda cars shared the 17-turn, 3.27-mile circuit with the Prototype Challenge class of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. But Novich hung tough, staying within a second of Goikhberg for the next 15 minutes.

Then Novich went off track due to a clutch problem. McMurry climbed to second, 15.223 seconds behind Goikhberg, after turning blistering laps to rally from 14th place after dropping through the field during a first-lap incident.

But then Joel Janco hit the barrier in turn five due to a mechanical problem in his No. 125 Performance Tech Motorsports entry, causing a full-course yellow. Goikhberg’s lead evaporated, but he was able to fight off McMurry on the restart with eight minutes remaining.

Novich clawed his way through the field and pulled to within a car length of Goikhberg on the final lap despite his clutch nearing failure. But Goikhberg held off Novich through the final turns for victory and the season title.

The finish:

Mikhail Goikhberg, Andrew Novich, Matt McMurry, Robert Alon, Enzo Potolicchio, Michael Chlumecky, Don Yount, Lamont Harris, Christian Potolicchio, Darryl Shoff, Brian Alder, Todd Slusher, John Falb, John Salmon, Joel Janco.