SEBRING, Fla. – The 61st Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida is arguably one of the most renowned sports car races in the United States, and on March 13-16, Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Series competition will not disappoint.
Twenty-one Lites 1 entries will power their Élan DP-02 chassis around Sebring Int’l Raceway, a 3.74-mile circuit internationally known for its infamous, high-speed “Turn 17,” a long, bumpy, fast right hander that challenges even the most veteran of contenders.
Entering its eighth season, the growing series was initially developed by the International Motor Sports Ass’n (IMSA) to accompany the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón (ALMS), a premier prototype and GT endurance racing series.
With over $150,000 in year-end awards, including a full-season entry into the unified 2014 Sports Car Series and $60,000 cash on the line, a Prototype Lites race produces enough power and competition to stand out within the racing community.
The Lites 1 (L1) cars can reach speeds of 170-mph, ideal for drivers aspiring to the upper echelons of prototype competition. The machines produce 235 horsepower through a 2-liter, four-cylinder Mazda MZR engine.
The Lites 2 (L2) formula was recently updated to create a more affordable and efficient racing platform by adopting the current Élan DP-02 chassis and matching it with a production-based Mazda 2.3L engine capable of over 200 horsepower.
These two classes create a dynamic on-track mix of youth and veteran alike that makes for a high level of competition and continually attracts national interest and regard.
While 2012 L1 Champion Tristan Nunez has graduated up to the Prototype Challenge division in ALMS competition, his rival and second place championship contender, Mikhail Goikhberg, will be back on track to represent JDC Motorsports once again as he makes a strong drive for the series Championship.
Chasing Goikhberg are some new young faces to the series this season. 8Star Motorsports has joined the on-track excitement with Christian and Gianncarlo Potolicchio at the helm of the No. 2 and 3 L1 entries. Both come from an international F2000 background and hope to reach the career heights of their championship winning father Enzo Potolicchio.
Also new to the series are Sean Rayhall of Comprent Motor Sports and Alexis Van de Poele running with Ansa Motorsports. Both young drivers will be making a play for the podium against the fast machine of Performance Tech driver Ryan Booth. Booth had an impressive ending to the 2012 season with a first place finish in round 13 at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda.
The 2012 Lites championship winning team Performance Tech will run five total entries this weekend, including 2012 Lites 2 Master’s Champion (M) Alan Wilzig. Wilzig has made the jump to the L1 class, alongside fellow teammates Daniel Mancini, Ritchie Holt and Daniel Goldburg.
For a truly “Master” effort, look no further than Eurosport Racing, as last year’s L1 Master’s Champion Jon Brownson returns to defend his title, alongside fellow Masters Championship teammates Dan Weyland and Jim Garrett, and returning entrant Joel Janco, who ran his first series event at Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda last season.
Longtime competitor Darryl Shoff (M) will be back behind the wheel for Comprent Motor Sports along with teammate Lamont Harris (M) contending for Masters glory against Gerry Kraut and JDC Motorsports.
Ferrari of Houston will be back in the racing line with return competitors Richard Fant and Owen Kratz who will also be looking to make their mark in the Masters Championship.
Defending 2012 L2 class Champion Scott Tucker will be returning this season to make a run at the top spot on the L1 Masters podium with Level 5 Motorsports.