Koch Captures Double Pole in Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta

Kenton Koch, of Glendora, California, will start the last two races of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires 2014 season from the top position. Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, and Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, will complete the top three starting positions for Thursday’s race. 
Koch, driving his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, proved to be the class of the field after setting the fastest and second-quickest qualifying lap of the 30-minute session. Koch’s pole-winning time for Thursday’s race was 1:40.056 (91.387 mph) around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile racetrack.
“The car was hooked up,” Koch said. “The ALARA guys put together an awesome car. I knew we would need to set a fast lap early, and we were able to get out of the gate early to get that done. The next lap, I was also able to put down a time good enough for Friday’s pole. I even tried to go out later in the session to secure the time, but wasn’t able to go faster.
“I really have to thank the BFGoodrich Tires guys for putting together such a great tire. It was surprisingly hot out today. With the pavement having a darker color, it really attracts heat. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. It’s going to be hectic since the top-10 cars are grouped so closely.”
In his No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc./Brimtek MX-5, Copeland will start second on Thursday. While the top-15 cars are bracketed by less than one second, times were slower for all drivers across the board. That said Copeland turned in a fast time of 1:40.123 (91.327 mph), but said the track temperature caused less than ideal conditions.
“During the last practice session, we did a mock qualifying run,” Copeland said. “It was not to our liking, at all. So, we came back and went through the entire setup. We went back to the drawing board and made some pretty wholesale changes and went back to the basics.
“We went out on the first run, and then came back in the pits to let the tires cool down. When we went back out, the car came back to life after letting the tires sit. We were able to come back and get P2, just a 0.1-second off the pole. So, it should be a good race.”
Malkhassian, in the No. 11 ALARA Garage/ALARA Racing MX-5, will start Thursday’s race from second after turning a fast lap of 1:40.173 (91.282 mph).
“It’s great to be starting so close to the front, especially with Kenton [Koch] directly in front of me,” Malkhassian said. “The cars have been great right off the trailer. Thanks to Ken Murillo, we’ve been tuning the cars and making them just a hair faster.
“The race is going to be tight. There will probably be about 12 drivers that will be able to compete for a win here, this weekend.”
Nathanial Sparks is slated to start Round 11 from fourth, in the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, after registering a time of 1:40.181 (91.274 mph).
Starting behind Sparks will be his teammate, John Dean, in the fifth position. Dean’s best time was 1:40.202 (91.255 mph) behind the wheel of his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5.
Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, will be the lead car in the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge contingent on Thursday. His best lap was a 1:42.030 (89.620 mph), beating out Ben Albano by 0.149-second.
“My plan was to get a couple good laps early on, and then wait out the remainder of the session,” Foley said. “I wanted to do the least number of laps I could. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out since we were in the wrong spots for the first couple laps.
“The track felt pretty greasy. We made some changes for qualifying, but couldn’t tell if they did much since the track was so inconsistent throughout the session.”
Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, turned a lap of 1:42.179 (89.620 mph) in his No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5, which was good enough for second. Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, will start Thursday’s race from third, after tripping the timing clock at 1:42.353 (89.337 mph) in the No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5.
Round 11 of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is slated to start Oct. 2, at 5:30 p.m. (EDT), with Round 12 scheduled for Oct. 3, at 8:00 a.m. (EDT).
Adam Sinclair