Joest Racing Managing Director Ralf Juttner is hopeful of having made a “step forward” with the Mazda RT24-P this weekend at Sebring, following a troubled start to its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign.
The highly anticipated Mazda Team Joest debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona failed to live up to expectations, with both Mazda DPis retiring after multiple issues, including a race-ending engine failure for the No. 55 entry.
While the team returned to the track in last month’s IMSA-sanctioned Sebring Test, the same car also faced engine woes, forcing the German operation to pack up early.
Juttner, however, believes the team has turned the corner for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, both in preparation and sorting out additional reliability woes since the season-opener.
“We as a team, the development of the car with Multimatic started very late,” Juttner told Sportscar365.
“Everyone was on the limit. It’s difficult to catch up on the season but I really hope we’ve made quite a step forward and just get some miles on the cars. That’s what we need.
“We just want to run trouble-free, more than anything else, to be honest. The rest comes automatically.”
Juttner said both of the Multimatic-built Prototypes were rebuilt from the ground-up since Daytona, where they were able to find a number of solutions to reliability-related issues that plagued the cars.
“The boys spent a lot of time and went through every little detail; all the stuff we didn’t have the time up until now,” he said. “It’s their cars now.
“We found quite a bit already after Daytona. That should have shown at the test but it was cut short by an engine failure.
“We just didn’t want to risk the second car; that’s why we stopped after the first day.
“I’m pretty optimistic that we’ve sorted quite a bit out. Multimatic [have] done a big deal. AER is working on the issues we had in Daytona, as well as the rest of the team.”
Engine Update In the Pipeline?
While having continued to battle issues with the AER-tuned Mazda MZ-2.0T engine, Juttner acknowledged they have “some ideas” that are under evaluation but stressed there’s no immediate fix.
Rumors have pointed to the development of a enlarged version of the current 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, or even potentially switching to AER’s LMP1 powerplant that’s used in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
However, no major engine updates would be expected this season, with IMSA understood to be encouraging manufacturers to make engine changes or refreshes at the start of each year instead of mid-season.
“There are a few things in the pipeline,” Juttner said. “But lead times are a bit longer. We have to work on for sure. It’s a major issue. But we’re getting there. Longer-term, there’s a lot of ideas around being investigated.”
Juttner believes the car’s improved cooling, courtesy of Multimatic’s extensive updates package, has actually contributed to the recent spell of engine issues.
“With the cooling, everything is now where it should be compared to last year,” he said. “I do believe that the engines are much higher power because they can.
“I think that’s what has happened in a way. It’s highly stressed anyway. Maybe that little bit took it over the limit.”