Koch Hits It Big At Laguna Seca

Kenton Koch leads the way during Saturday's SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. (Myles Regan Photo)
Kenton Koch leads the way during Saturday's SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. (Myles Regan Photo)
Kenton Koch leads the way during Saturday’s SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. (Myles Regan Photo)

MONTEREY, Calif.  – Kenton Koch took home the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires round four win at his home track of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, part of the Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda, on Saturday morning.

John Dean, Friday’s race winner, finished second ahead of  Sebastian Landy in third.

Driving a special Gumby-inspired livery on his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Koch led all but one lap in the time-shortened race that lasted 40 minutes and averaged 71.176 mph around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile permanent road course.

The start of what was scheduled to be a 45-minute timed race starting at 8:00 a.m. (PDT), was delayed by 10 minutes due to on-course visibility issues caused by thick fog that hung over the race course. Once deemed safe to proceed with pace laps, the 40-minute clock was started as the field circulated four times behind the pace car. The green flag was flown for the double-file, rolling start as the leaders passed by the line to begin lap five.

After being turned loose, Koch drove around Dean on lap two to take the early lead. From that point on, Koch put his head down and focused on smooth driving to stay ahead of Dean.

“It wasn’t an easy win,” Koch said. “It may have looked easy since I led each lap, but I had to be mistake-free. John [Dean] is an awesome driver. He’s one of the quickest, most consistent guys out there. For me to be able to stay in front of him makes me feel really good. I hope this can help build some momentum into the next two races.”

Dean said that the delay before the start of the race hurt his chances of taking home a win in his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5.

“When we got delayed for the fog, that hurt our strategy with tire temperatures,” Dean said. “We ended up getting a little hotter than we were expecting. So, we overshot with the tires.

“Kenton [Koch] was running really well, and I was just trying to hang in there to take advantage if he pushed his tires too hard. At one point, I missed a shift coming off the last corner allowing him to pull a small gap. I just stayed there the rest of the race, unable to get close. It’s a wash for the points, so we’ll go to the next one and try to squeeze out some more.”

For Landy, the rolling start gave him an opportunity to make the best of his fourth-place starting position. At the controls of his No. 41 Excitations.com/Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5, Landy was passed by Joey Bickers at the drop of the green flag. Bickers then engaged his C.J. Wilson teammate, Patrick Gallagher, in battle for the third position. Landy made the most of that situation, taking the position for himself.

“It was a bit crazy in the beginning with the rolling start,” Landy said. “I got bumped as the flag dropped, knocking me into neutral.

“Bickers got by me on the start heading into Turn Two. Then, Gallagher got a bad run out of Two and I managed to split both of them [Bickers and Gallagher]. As they started to fight, I was able to pull away. By the time I got back into third, at the end of lap one, the top-two drivers had already pulled out a large gap.”

Bickers crossed under the checkered flag in the fourth position. In his No. 29 Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Bickers battled for supremacy over Gallagher for the entire 21-lap race. The two drivers traded positions six times, officially.

Bickers was ahead of the No. 28 MedBuild/Henry Schein/ModSpace MX-5 of Gallagher at the end of lap 18, and held on for the last three laps to finish less that 0.2-second in front of his teammate.

Lucas Bize took home the winner’s hardware in the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class. He used a combination of patience, smooth driving and slower traffic to move forward from his fourth-place grid position.

“It was a tough race,” Bize said. “I knew I needed to make the tires last for the whole race. So, I did what I could to get out front. Once I got the lead, I just focused on hitting my marks.”

On the heels of yesterday’s win, Ben Albano finished second. In his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5, Drake Kemper completed the Skip Barber podium.

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