Koch Completes Mazda MX-5 Cup Weekend Sweep at CTMP

 Kenton Koch, of Glendora, California, did the race-weekend double by winning Round Eight of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, part of the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Sebastian Landy, of Great Falls, Virginia, finished second, just off the rear bumper of Koch. Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, finished third.

Koch led all but one of the 28 laps of the race, which ran without incident, that averaged 91.543 mph around the 10-turn, 2.459-mile permanent road course. The only other driver to lead at the strip was Nathanial Sparks, who was unable to finish the race due to a mechanical problem.
Driving the No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Koch led a two-car breakaway that gapped the field by 20 seconds, after starting on lap six.
“The whole time I was trying to experiment a little,” Koch said. “I was thinking hard to figure out how to break the draft Landy was getting on the back straight.
“At the beginning, we had a couple really good battles where we traded positions back and forth with Sparks and Landy. Huge props to Landy for working together so we could break away, making it easier for the both of us. He [Landy] drove one heck of a race. There wasn’t anything I could do to shake him.”
In the No. 49 Excitations.com/Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5, Landy matched each move Koch made, but was unable to capitalize by taking the top spot. Each time the tandem of Koch and Landy crossed the timing line, there was less than one car length separating the two drivers.
“I kept running out of space in Turn Five,” Landy said. “I think we had something for him [Koch], so it’s a little disappointing not to get a win. The car was great, and was the best it had been all weekend. It was one of the best cars that I’ve had the chance to drive.
“He [Koch] had a little on me in a couple places, and I had a lot on him in others. So, I just was trying to let him run his race and take advantage when I could. But, the opportunity didn’t present itself.”
Malkhassian clinched his first podium finish of the season at the wheel of his No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5. Malkhassian’s podium finish was not easy, by any means. Starting from third position during the rolling start, Malkhassian was downed to 10th spot by the end of lap one. He then went on a tear, gaining seven positions over the next eight laps. Malkhassian was back in third by lap 11 and held the position for the remainder of the race, save three laps in which John Dean was in front of him.
“We really nailed the setup today,” Malkhassian said. “It was a complete monster from the start of the race. We were able to hang in there and stayed toward the front the whole day.
“There’s no real way to break away from the pack, on your own. I would put some distance between myself and the rest of them, then they would just draft up on me. The car was handling so well that I was able to make it stick where we needed so we could make the passes to get back toward the front.”
Driving the No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, John Dean made the best of his eighth-place starting position by finishing fourth. In the opening laps of the race, Dean began to make some early moves. He spent the entire race squarely in the midst of the second-pack tussle that took until lap 13 to calm. At that point Dean was in fourth.
On lap 18, Dean made one final push forward when he passed Malkhassian for third. However, Malkhassian proved too much for Dean to hold off as the Houston driver re-took the position on lap 21.
Patrick Gallagher completed the top five, piloting his No. 28 MedBuild/Henry Schein/ModSpace MX-5. After gaining two positions on the initial lap, Gallagher found himself in 11th at the end of lap two. He spent the next 20 circuits clawing his way toward the front. On lap 22, Gallagher made his final move, leaping forward two positions, into fifth. He was able to hold station until the checkered flag was flown.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Lucas Bize, of New York, also completed the race weekend with two wins. Much like the Cup class, the front duo was able to break away from the rest of the field. That provided some breathing room for the two leaders to run fast laps in the draft.
“Fortunately, Ben [Albano] and I were able to get some clean air and keep the race between the two of us,” Bize said. “We changed positions a couple times throughout, but I was able to get in front of him and stay there until the end.
“The car was on rails. It was really solid; especially considering this was the second race on the same set of tires.”
Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, kept pace with Bize and cruised to a second-place finish in the No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5. Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, finished third, behind the wheel of his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5.
With two consecutive race weekend sweeps, Koch extended his points lead over Dean. Koch leaves CTMP with 496 Championship points. Dean trails by 55 markers, followed by Landy with 396 points.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge Championship, Kemper holds the point lead with 453. Albano sits 10 markers behind, with Foley in third having collected 423 points.
Adam Sinclair