Kenton Koch, of Glendora, California, led Saturday’s Round Seven SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires race from start to finish, as part of the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, completed the podium, in that order.
In his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Koch made a clean start to take the lead into Turn One of the 45-minute race that averaged 83.631 mph around the 10-turn, 2.459-mile circuit. The race was slowed by a full-course yellow that lasted four laps as a result of James Vance stalling on the start.
On the lap five restart, Koch led the field to the green and never looked back. With Sparks in tow, Koch and Sparks separated themselves from the rest of the field.
“Sparky [Nathanial Sparks] and I had a really good run out there,” Koch said. “We were able to work together to gap the rest of the pack. That made our job a lot easier. I was content with either first or second, since John was a little further back. I’m just focusing on staying clean and getting the most points I can.
“When the yellow flag came out, I got really lucky. I knew I was going to need to do something really special coming out of Turn Five to keep Sparks behind me at the end of the straight. He [Sparks] really did a great job.”
Sparks, driving the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, notched his third consecutive podium of the season. Sparks was able to stay glued to Koch’s bumper throughout the entire 26-lap race. En route to his second-place finish, Sparks reset the race-lap record to 1:35.473 (92.721 mph).
“Kenton’s [Koch] car and mine were working very similarly the whole time,” Sparks said. “We were fast in many of the same places, especially coming out of Turn Five. On the back straight we were able to run very efficiently, allowing us to pull away from the other guys battling further back.
“I was pushing Koch to make a mistake, but we both just ran solidly. It’s what you expect from the caliber of driver we have in this series.”
Gallagher was able to bring his No. 28 MedBuild/Henry Schein/ModSpace MX-5 home in third. He was embroiled in a tight four-way battle for battle for the position throughout the entire race. Staring from the inside of row two, Gallagher got shuffled back to fourth after the opening lap. After the restart, Gallagher made his way back to third, but was shuffled back to fifth by the end of lap 10.
On lap 19, Gallagher began to mak his move. Eventual fourth-place finisher Sebastian Landy, in the No. 49 Excitations.com/Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5, and Gallagher swapped positions back-and-forth for the final eight laps of the race, with Gallaher coming out on top.
“I think we could have hung with Sparky and Koch, in the race,” Gallagher said. “In the beginning we had some guys that were really set up for the straight, whereas John [Dean] and I were set up well for the turns. They would get past us on the strights, and hold us up a bit in the turns. If they would have followed us down the straights, we may have been able to catch up with the front guys.
“Once we got past lap six, the top two positions were sealed. At that point, I just had my sights set on finishing third. These CJ Wilson guys were incredible. After a big shunt two days ago, my car was without a trunk. They got to work and were able to get the car back together. You can hardly tell where the damage was.”
Completing the top five was Lucas Catania, at the controls of his No. 17 Atlanta Motorsports Group/NY Spine & Wellness/SOS MX-5. Getting as far up the standings as third, Catania was dropped to sixth at the conclusion of lap 19. From there, Catania battled with John Dean, in the No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, for the remainder of the race. On lap 23, Catania was able to get around Dean and hold the position until the checkers came out.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class, Lucas Bize, of New York, claimed the top step of the podium. After starting second in class, Bize was dropped to fourth by the end of the opening lap. On lap seven, Bize fell to sixth in class, but clawed his by back through the field. On lap 22, he got around Robby Foley to take the lead and eventual win.
“Honestly, this was one of the most hard-fought races I’ve ever been in,” Bize said. “But, that’s to be expected here. This is just one of those tracks that produce that kind of racing.
“I got in a little racing incident on lap seven, and lost a couple spots. I tried to follow Robby [Foley] through Turn Eight and Ben [Albano] didn’t see me. He clipped me a little bit and caused me to go off track, but I just got back on the track and stayed patient. I knew I had plenty of time left, at that point, to gain those positions back.”
Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, scored a second-place finish at the controls of his No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5. Completing the Skip Barber podium was Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, in his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5.