Mazda Team Joest has Turned the Corner

Mazda Team Joest has Turned the Corner

There is no place in motorsport for pessimists. Winning requires optimism at the highest level. If you don’t believe in your racing abilities, the competitiveness of your car (or motorcycle or truck) and the capacity of your team to achieve victory, you may as well stay home.

Mazda Motorsports hasn’t stayed home from IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Through director John Doonan’s continuing efforts, Mazda has tried every means necessary to gain the top step of IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype International (DPi) podium. It hasn’t been easy; it hasn’t been pretty and there have been many missteps along the way.

When Mazda hired Reinhold Joest’s eponymous team to take over its two-car IMSA DPi entry, enlisted Multimatic to build their RT24-P chassis and continued with AER as its engine supplier, many in the IMSA community believed success was readily at hand. From the start, speed was never a problem but reliability certainly was. Mazda Team Joest struggled to complete both endurance and sprint races in their inaugural season and these difficulties continued in the early stages of the 2019 campaign.

The pair of burgundy Mazda race cars were quick everywhere and won pole position for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. But again, and again and again, the team failed to convert, failed to secure that win every racer dreams of attaining. The mechanical difficulties in Daytona spilled out to Sebring. At Long Beach, one car finished fourth while the other took 15th; Detroit was another dismal proposition.

Mazda Team Joest has Turned the Corner
Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan

Then the tide turned and Mazda Team Joest started winning. They were first with the No. 55 at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the No. 77 followed its partner car to the checkers in second place. A week later on the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park road course, it was the No. 77 ahead of the No. 55 in first and second.

The third win in a row came on Road America’s long natural circuit, Doonan’s “home” race, with the No. 55 ahead of Acura Team Penske and the No. 77 in third.

“I almost can’t believe that here we are celebrating a third victory in a row for Mazda,” Doonan exclaimed. “This shows how much everyone at Mazda Team Joest, Multimatic and AER has transformed this Mazda RT24-P. To win here at Road America, the racetrack where I grew up, is an incredible feeling for myself and my family.”

Mazda’s cars continue to be fast, but the team really didn’t think they had the chance to win on Elkhart Lake’s vaunted road course.

“This is huge for Mazda, for Mazda Team Joest and for Harry (Tincknell) and myself,” said co-driver and winner Jonathan Bomarito, a long-time Mazda racer. “We came into this race thinking we didn’t have the fastest cars in the race, but the RT24-P did so well over long runs. It was a flat-out race with no cautions. We were pushing like crazy to keep pace and taking every opportunity to build gaps in traffic. This one, in a way, feels more rewarding than our first win, because that was our race to lose and here we had to fight so hard.”

Bomarito is in third place for IMSA’s DPi driver’s championship, just 17 points behind Acura Team Penske’s Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya. Mazda hold third-place manufacturers’ points behind Acura and Cadillac, lagging by a meager 11 points to the leaders. The No. 55 Mazda Team Joest squad is third in the team championship (-17 to the No. 6 Acura Team Penske) while the No. 77 holds fifth-place points.

Two races remain and momentum is finally, finally on Mazda’s side. A stop at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in mid-September for a short, sprint race is followed by the Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour contestant Road Atlanta. Can Mazda make up the difference and finally come out on top?

Mazda Team Joest has Turned the Corner
Tincknell and Bomarito at Road America
About Anne Proffit 1268 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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