Last week, it was Antonio Downs who lamented that his brothers had not joined him on the Lites 1 victory podium. Today, it was Lucas and Matt Downs holding up their end of the bargain, finishing first and second in Round 13 of the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship.
Instead of the usual 45-minute event, the race was a 75-minute, 48-lap endurance event that included a mandatory four-minute pit stop – simulating a degree of what the drivers in the American Le Mans Series by Tequila Patrón experience. The pit stop added an entirely new realm of strategy and chance to the equation, as Lucas Downs, driving the #79 Eurosport Racing/Sam’s Club Élan DP02, used the pit stop to gain the lead. During the first full course caution after the pit window opened, Downs waited an extra lap after the leaders came in, came out with the lead and kept it until the end.
“We got lucky,” said Downs. “I stayed out an extra lap and one way or another, it worked. Charlie and Matt were faster than me when Gary wrecked – I appreciate the opening, but we were fortunate. I have to say, 75 minutes was just long enough! I didn’t need it any longer with those guys going that fast.”
Matt Downs (#12 Eurosport Racing/Hormel Bacon Bits) was happy with his second place finish, but noted the missing family member, with Antonio Downs (#4 Eurosport Racing/Lamex Foods) just off the podium in fourth.
“It was close racing,” said Downs. “After the pit stops, the car really came in, but I’m happy with second place behind my brother – we’re close to this podium deal with all three of us!”
It was a tough day for CORE autosport, as pole sitter Gary Gibson (#13 Perfect Pedal) crashed avoiding a car returning to the track after a spin and #54 Jonathan Bennett (Composite Resources) spun out of the last corner and was hit by another car on lap 46. But championship leader Charlie Shears (#21 US Builders) was the one positive note, finishing third.
In Lites 2, John Weisberg (#75 BERG Racing/Redcom) and Lee Alexander (#23 Factory 48 Motorsports/ APE Raceparts) battled back and forth all day, with Weisberg coming out on top and happy to see the finish.
“75 minutes is really long!” said Weisberg. “We made a strategic mistake on the stop and ended up pitting under green, but luckily I was able to lay down some really fast laps. The last yellow let me catch up to the field – I caught Lee (Alexander, #23 Factory 48 Motorsports/APE Raceparts), then he got caught up with a Lites 1 car and I was able to get by. I owe this all to my crew, they did a fantastic job.”
The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship features racing between two sports racer prototype classes, Lites 1 and Lites 2, presenting a dimension of competition as drivers must be aware of classes with distinctly different speeds as they navigate the race track. This is the same challenge faced by the drivers of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
The Championship concludes with Rounds 14 and 15 at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, September 29 through October 2. Follow along on the race weekend at www.litestiming.com, on Facebook and Twitter and visit www.prototypelites.com for the latest schedule and updates.