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Emotional Kasemets Claims Prototype Challenge Title in Dominant Fashion

The 48-Year-Old Clinches His First Professional Championship with His Fourth Win of 2022

 

By Mark Robinson

 

Provisional Race Results

 

BRASELTON, Ga. – It was all but a certainty heading into the day, but the emotion of winning the final IMSA Prototype Challenge race and season championship came pouring out of Tonis Kasemets on Friday.

 

Moments after dominating the 90-minute race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta to collect his fourth victory in five chances this season, Kasemets choked up several times trying to explain what it all meant to the 48-year-old native of Estonia now living in the United States.

 

“Truly this is, I think, the only one professional championship I’ve ever won,” Kasemets said, his eyes welled with tears. “To do it right now on this stage with this group of people, it’s unbelievable, it’s mega. All my friends are here. It’s a very special day for all of us.

 

“We tried for so many years. This is it. That’s what it’s all about.”

 

Kasemets started from the pole position and led all but the first of 57 laps in the No. 60 Wulver Racing Ligier JS P320. Kasemets won by 6.554 seconds to cap a dream season that saw him win four times and finish second in the other race.

 

Still overcome with emotion, Kasemets was quick to credit the Wulver crew and all those who have supported him through the years. After launching his career in Europe, he began competing in the U.S. in SCCA events in 1998, climbing the open-wheel ladder and eventually making six IndyCar starts in 2006 and a total of seven IMSA top-tier series starts from 2006-2021. But he never received a full-season opportunity at the pinnacle of any motorsport series, which made him appreciate this year’s effort with Wulver all the more.

 

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“Maybe we look small but we are really deep,” Kasemets said of his team. “The only people who could have beat us this weekend would have been us. We tried to execute, tried to make sure all the nuts and bolts were tight and just run a solid pace. We had a dinner and we said if we do everything 90 percent, it will be better than someone else’s 100. That’s what we did today. It’s just a testament to everybody who’s around me.

 

“We’ve been doing this for 40 years, so the list (of people to thank) is huge. Family is only one thing but friends who’ve become a family, sponsors, money, bad luck is what’s got us here. This is what it’s all about. We did it. We made it!”

 

Memo Gidley and Alexander Koreiba finished second Friday in the No. 23 AL Autosport with JDC Duqueine D08, the same position where they finished in the season standings. Gidley and Koreiba won the only race that Kasemets did not, at Mid-Ohio in May.

 

Koreiba ran second to Kasemets on a pair of late restarts from full-course cautions but couldn’t clear lapped traffic between the two cars to mount a charge.

 

“I would have loved to have had a shot at him – it’s been a while since I have – but that’s the game you play,” Koreiba said. “Then after the final restart, tire deg just became a factor and I had to hang onto it at the end of the day.”

 

Corey Lewis bumped and battled his way to a third-place finish in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier he shared with Jason Rabe. This was the final IMSA Prototype Challenge race as the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) series transitions to the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge in 2023, a doubleheader weekend sprint-race series where LMP3s and GT4 cars will race together.