DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When Prototype Challenge driver Kenton Koch was just 6 years old, he spotted a go kart at the Los Angeles Auto Show. That was the day his racing dreams began.
The now 27-year-old driver begged his parents for a go kart and when he was eight, Santa Claus placed one under the tree for Christmas.
From karting, Koch began to slowly transition to the path he’s on now via the Mazda Road to 24.
“My transition into IMSA took a while,” Koch said. “I really had to climb up the ladder and work my way up, as I didn’t have the racing budget others might have access to.”
In 2015, Koch competed in IMSA’s Prototype Lites series and in 2016, he worked his way into the LMPC class in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
This year, he placed second overall in the LMP3 class championship in his P1 Motorsports entry, even though he missed the first two rounds of competition at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
“That car is what a Prototype should be like,” he said. “The comparison between that and an LMPC car are more similar than a Lites car. Lites cars were heavier and you have to be a little bit more careful about how you coax the car through the corner.”
Koch joined the new P1 Motorsports team at the beginning of the year at the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
“I had my helmet in hand just looking for opportunities,” Koch said. “Alberto [Peña] was starting a new team and I was all for it.”
“Kenton and I have known each other for about four years now,” Peña said. “I always knew that he had something special! His talent on and off the track fit right in with our family at P1 Motorsports. When Kenton and I had our initial meeting at the Roar, it was a no brainer – I wanted him on board! We are truly lucky to have him on our team!”
The young team shared many joyful moments over the 2017 season, but that didn’t mean there weren’t difficult moments along the way.
“Racing in the rain at Watkins Glen [International] was tough for our team,” Koch said. “We are a new team and we had some growing pains. There was a miscommunication and the learning experience was painful for everyone. It can happen to anyone if you haven’t gone through that before.”
Although the race at Watkins Glen in July wasn’t Koch’s greatest show, he says his favorite race of the season was the Grand Prix Trois-Rivières,
“Racing on the streets was so amazing and the fans were incredible,” he said. “Just being around people who have that much dedication to the sport was really cool.”
Koch made the most of his shortened season, posting seven wins, 10 podiums, and six poles in the 11 rounds he raced. Koch made a run for the championship during the final weekend, in a close battle with Colin Thompson, ultimately ending the season just behind in points, 217-209.
“It was like a Ligier [JS P3] versus Norma [M30] battle [Koch’s and Thompson’s car manufacturers], and it was cool to see the accordion effect there at the track,” Koch said. “We got side-by-side a couple of times and we had some good racing there.”
Koch supports and stands by a special cause near and dear to his heart. After his mom received a heart transplant in 2015, the young driver has been using his racing platform to make more people aware of the importance of organ donations.
“There are so many people out there on the organ donation list and there’s less donors than there are people who need organs,” Koch said. “We try to spread the word through DonateLife.net.”
Koch already has his 2018 race season lined up. He will be running with P1 Motorsports once again in the newly-formatted IMSA Prototype Challenge series with driver Joel Janco, plus racing in the GTD class in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“P1 showed a lot of performance and it was cool to see how the team developed throughout the year,” Koch said. “It was a good experience to be a part of.
“I think we should’ve won this year – if we had done the first race, we would have won but to us, we showed what we were capable of throughout the year. The team championship was great for us and Ligier – we showed what the Ligier could do.”
“It’s a shame we didn’t start Kenton at Sebring, but for a new team to be able to win the team championship is mega,” Peña said. “I couldn’t be more proud of everyone on the team. We all wanted to elevate our game to the highest level possible, and we all executed. It did not come easy, but I think Kenton’s results helped everyone focus forward.”
“For me, I started my relationship with P1 at the start of their team and it feels good to be there since the beginning and I would like to stick with them – they have major potential and hopefully we can continue this partnership for many years to come,” Koch said. “I think things are looking up.”