Mikhail Goikhberg will become the second straight IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda champion to make his debut in the IMSA season finale, Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda.
The North Vancouver native, 27, will have his title coronation in the Prototype Lites doubleheader finale, looking to add to his tally of eight wins in the first 12 races driving for JDC Motorsports.
Then on Saturday, Goikhberg will join JDC’s Prototype Challenge effort, the No. 85 JDC/Miller Oreca FLM09 with Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson, for his TUDOR United SportsCar Championship debut. He completed a shakedown last week.
Considering the quick rises of the previous two champs, Tristan Nunez (2012, and now a Mazda factory driver) and Sean Rayhall (2013, now a PC race winner with 8Star Motorsports), Goikhberg now has his shot to make his first mark in the TUDOR Championship.
“I’ve talked to Sean before committing to doing Petit. I wanted to learn from his experiences,” Goikhberg told Sportscar365. “You want to get into the car and be very fast right away.
“I’ve been lucky to be a part of JDC and take the Lites title. I hope this journey into PC for them is similar in growth. They’ve done a lot in open-wheel. Yeah they’re new, but there’s no reason they can’t get better.”
The Lites title comes in his third crack at the championship. He finished second to Nunez, and third behind Rayhall and Ryan Booth the last two seasons.
“It’s obviously a huge bonus to have got it done before Atlanta; it’s a weight off not just my shoulders but the team’s,” he said. “I feel we could have won before the third year, but we combined our experiences and throughout the year had a consistent package, both car and driver.”
For Goikhberg, it represents a unique opportunity to race in the PC car, even though he’s raced against them at the two PC/Prototype Lites races this year at Kansas and Virginia.
Goikhberg described the variance in pace in those races, as the Lites cars raced alongside the PC ones.
“It was helpful for TUDOR to allow the Lites guys this chance, considering we’re part of the paddock. It was good to get a taste,” he said.
“That also opened up my eyes to the big differences between PC and Lites. The Lites were faster in some corners and could brake later. We were down on lap times. But I was impressed with what I saw.”
While this one-off ends the year, Goikhberg is optimistic of a possible jump into PC or Prototype into TUDOR next season.
JDC/Miller banked its first podium of the year at Road America, with third place.
A year ago, Rayhall and Ozz Negri took 8Star to second in the American Le Mans Series finale, and Goikhberg will look to be part of a second straight debut podium effort this year.