Elkhart Lake, Wisc., (Aug. 9, 2013) - "Bigger is always better" seemed to be the motto of the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda series today, as the largest field of competitors thus far this season focused on pushing their Mazda powered Élan DP02 entries to the limit today as they qualified on the longest road course they face this race season at the historic Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.
Ultimately, twenty-one prototypes found their pace today on the 4.048, 14-turn road course to set their positions for Rounds 9 and 10 of Series competition, but it was current points leader Sean Rayhall with Comprent Motor Sports that ultimately captured the Cooper Tires Pole Award and a new qualifying lap record in the 30-minute session.
"It's a true pleasure today to be on the Pole in the Prototype Lites division," said the 18-year-old Rayhall. "We've struggled all week, and my Comprent Motor Sports guys busted their tails right before that session and we changed everything in the book. I really can't emphasize how much I appreciate them working for me like that, because we were really out of the ballpark before that. It's really good to have the No. 14 Robert Talbott Mazda on the Pole. Looking forward to racing here at Road America, it's another pole for us but as we've seen in the past we know qualifying doesn't matter. Ryan (Booth) is really, really close to us and I think it's going to be a good race. There's a lot of hot competition here so I'm just ready for the next rounds of the Cooper Tires Lites Series."
And "really, really close" was not an understatement as Ryan Booth and Performance Tech racing kept the pressure on Rayhall the entire session with consistent lap times and speeds that were a mere fraction off of Rayhall's record breaking lap time of 2:04.990.
The two are still within sight of one another in the points championship with only 26 points separating them at the halfway point this season.
"Sean (Rayhall) just got me by just a little bit," Booth said. "It seems to be going that way all year. But qualifying doesn't really matter. Now it's just focus on the race and get a good setup for the race and hopefully we can come out with the win."
The battle for today's pole award proved that the competition within the series has been growing significantly stronger and cleaner, as returning competitor Anthony Downs, who finished second in the Championship in both 2010 and 2011, had a bird's eye view in his No. 79 Eurosport entry of the action.
"Today was great," Downs said. "I had plenty of green flag laps. The only person I can blame is myself I just couldn't get down to the times those young kids were pulling off in front of us. It's amazing how fast they were going. But we're starting in the third row with my teammate Jon Brownson. Hopefully we can sit back and watch the fireworks in front of us and pick off a few of them in the race."
Brownson was able to hold off Level 5 Motorsports' Scott Tucker to start in the top L1 Masters position and fifth overall, just behind Daniel Goldburg and Mikhail Goikhberg of JDC Motorsport in third and fourth respectively. He is leading the point standings in the Masters Championship by 20 points.
The Lites 2 class was led by Ludovico Manfredi of Ansa Motorsports, followed by 8Star competitor Gustavo Torres.
The 30-minute session was marred by only one brief red flag for a spin in the gravel by the No. 88 of Dan Weyland approximately 10 minutes into the session.
Round 9 of Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda competition will begin on Saturday, August 9 at 7:45 a.m. CT for a 30-minute race feature. Race 10 will be a longer 45-minute contest taking the green flag at 9:25 a.m. CT on Sunday, August 10.