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Bernhard, Pla Linked to Mazda Team Joest Drives

Olivier Pla, Timo Bernhard tipped to join Mazda Team Joest lineup for 2019…

Photos: IMSA/Porsche

Mazda could add two new drivers to its DPi lineup next year, with Olivier Pla and Timo Bernhard linked to the Team Joest-run operation in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Multiple sources have indicated to Sportscar365 that the pair of former FIA World Endurance champions have been tipped to join Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez, who are all expected to return for 2019.

While it’s unclear on their exact roles, both Pla and Bernhard could be part of the team’s lineup for the Michelin Endurance Cup races. 

Pla, who drives for the Multimatic-run Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team in the WEC, is understood to have turned his first laps in the Mazda RT24-P in a private test at Daytona last week, with Bernhard slated to test with the German squad later this week, also at Daytona.

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan declined comment on driver lineups when reached by Sportscar365.

It’s unclear if Mazda will opt for a four-driver lineup in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, which would allow Spencer Pigot and Rene Rast to remain on the driving force.

A third car could also be an option, given the number of drivers that would be employed.

Pigot was part of the team’s multi-day test last week, which saw a fire for one of the Multimatic-built prototypes.

AER and Multimatic have rolled out with engine-related updates to the car for next year, initially tested in Europe but believed to have been on the car at the most recent test.

Spirit of Daytona Talks Cool for 2019

The prospects of a customer Mazda DPi effort, to be run by Spirit of Daytona Racing, now appears unlikely, at least for the start of next year.

It comes after ongoing discussions between the Japanese automaker and the Troy Flis-led squad, which withdrew its Cadillac DPi-V.R mid-season due to funding issues.

Doonan told Sportscar365 there is no possibility of a customer DPi program for next year, while Flis indicated he should have news on his team’s 2019 program shortly.

It’s unclear if Spirit of Daytona has kept possession of the Cadillac DPi it used this year.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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