After Finishing Second in His First-Ever Prototype Race, He and Brian Thienes Look to Build on Their Success at Mid-Ohio
By Mark Robinson
IMSA Prototype Challenge: Mid-Ohio Entry List
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Considering that the IMSA Prototype Challenge 2022 opener at Daytona International Speedway was his first race ever driving a prototype, Patrick Kujala was quite pleased with the second-place finish he and co-driver Brian Thienes earned.
Now, nearly four months later and with additional testing in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) under their belt, the drivers of the No. 77 O’Gara Motorsport/Change Racing/US RaceTronics Ligier JS P320 boast boosted confidence heading into Round 2 on Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“We have done maybe three or four days (of testing), so that’s why I come to Mid-Ohio with much more confidence driving that car because I have more time in it,” Kujala said.
That wasn’t the case for the 25-year-old from Finland before the Jan. 22 race at Daytona. Kujala hadn’t stepped foot into the Ligier until race weekend, yet he and Thienes brought home a solid runner-up result in the series’ only three-hour race of the season run in wet, intermediate, dry and wet again conditions.
“Based on the result, it went quite well,” Kujala said. “Also, the first time I was in the car was in Daytona. Remember, we had mixed conditions; it wasn’t even fully dry or fully wet. It was changing all the time during the race.”
Kujala’s racing background is primarily in GT cars with a dash of early junior open-wheel formulas in Europe. A two-time European champion in Lamborghini Super Trofeo, he drove in four North American Super Trofeo races for US RaceTronics in 2016. When Shane Seneviratne, team principal at US RaceTronics, offered Kujala a ride in both the Prototype Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America this year, Kujala didn’t hesitate.
“The offer was really good and I just couldn’t say no,” Kujala admitted. “I’m very pleased to be doing two championships with them this year. I’m very glad.”
Seventeen cars are on the Mid-Ohio entry list for the Prototype Challenge. Tonis Kasemets, who won the Daytona opener with co-driver Bruce Hamilton, will drive solo in the No. 60 Wulver Racing Ligier this weekend.
The Prototype Challenge schedule calls for one practice on Friday afternoon and another Saturday morning ahead of qualifying Saturday afternoon. The one-hour, 45-minute race streams live on Peacock starting at 9:25 a.m. ET Sunday.