AUSTIN, Texas — Sean Rayhall avoided a race filled with mayhem to win round 11 of the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda series Friday at Circuit of The Americas.
Prior to the start, the race was declared a wet session due to rain earlier in the day. As the race continued, the track began to dry off and the earlier declaration was lifted. Although teams were given the option to switch out their Cooper Tires rain tires at that point, all competitors opted to stay on track and continue their run.
Several spins off course in the first 16 minutes left debris on the circuit that ultimately brought out the safety trucks under double yellow flags on lap six for potential clean up and inspection. After 10 minutes under caution, the field went green for four final laps.
Polesitter Ryan Booth of Performance Tech led the field before the yellow, but during the caution period he experienced a mechanical issue and had to wave fellow competitors by as he pulled off course. Booth was bumped back to sixth position after the restart, opening up the lead for the taking. Despite his less than optimal finish, Booth turned the fastest lap of the day with a time of 2:17.133 for a new race lap record at COTA.
Comprent Motor Sports driver Rayhall was gaining momentum on Booth in second position for the first six laps and took advance of Booth’s mechanical mishap to ultimately lead the field all the way to the checkered flag.
“It was definitely a zoo,” Rayhall said. “Ryan (Booth) got a quick lead after the initial start, I was kind of behind him just riding. I felt a problem in my right rear where the ball joint had gone bad. I decided to just hang back in second and then whatever happened to his car happened, and that is unfortunate because he really had the car to beat, but sometimes it’s having the most reliable that wins. So I really have to thank my Robert Talbot Comprent boys for that!”
Rayhall turned his fastest lap of the competition in Lap 10 around the circuit, two laps after the restart. With the victory, Rayhall secures his fifth win of the year.
Second-place finisher Mikhail Goikhberg was not immune to catching “the spins” on the 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit. The JDC Motorsports driver started from fifth position, but dropped back to ninth after getting mixed up in the incident in turn one on lap one.
“We had a good start,” Goikhberg said. “We were good in corner one, bypassed the accident there and then I made a crucial mistake following Sean (Rayhall) and Ryan (Booth) into the Esses. And then unfortunately I couldn’t get my car started. It took me a good two minutes to get it started and the whole field was by me. Then I started inching my way at it. We had the help of a yellow so that was good. We’re hoping for rain tomorrow.”
Goikhberg of JDC Motorsports gained three positions from lap three to lap four, and by his 10th trip around the circuit he was in second position. On the second-to-last lap he had a tight battle with Enzo Potolicchio, slipping back to third, but made it around the bright orange 8Star Motorsports car to take the second step of the podium.
Avoiding the incident on the first lap paid off for 8Star Motorsports’ Franco De Leonardis. His veteran driving skill was on display as he maneuvered around the group of cars in disarray. De Leonardis started from 13th position to finish third overall, jumping to that position on the first lap alone.
As positions shuffled throughout the race, so did the points standings. While Rayhall remains the series point leader with the win, Goikhberg slides ahead of Performance Tech’s Daniel Goldburg in the standings with 153 total points. Goikhberg trails Booth, currently in second place with 156 points.
Rayhall not only extended his lead for the championship, he also catapulted Comprent Motor Sports to first place in the team standings. Comprent now leads Performance Tech 197 to 194 with only three races remaining in the season.