Last year’s Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach was one of the highlights for Jonathan Bomarito and the Mazda DPi program, as he and co-driver Tristan Nunez brought the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P home in third place, representing the new car’s first podium result.
The team also was competitive on the Detroit Belle Isle street circuit last June, but the team paused its participation in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program after the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park round in July, as other strong results were far and few between.
Instead, Mazda opted to focus its attention on 2018 and its new program under the Mazda Team Joest banner.
At last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, both of the team’s DPis, the No. 55 shared by Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Spencer Pigot and the No. 77 of Tristan Nunez, Oliver Jarvis and Rene Rast ran among the leaders for much of the event. In fact, Jarvis posted the fastest lap of the race.
All of those factors have Bomarito optimistic about the team’s chances heading into this Saturday’s race.
“Everybody in Mazda Team Joest is very excited,” Bomarito said. “It’s a really good atmosphere so far. It’s probably the best situation the team has been in up to this point.
“We’ve had a few breaks now, the big break from Daytona to Sebring and now Sebring to Long Beach, really, for them to get caught up.
“We had a great showing at Sebring – the result wasn’t as good as it could have been – but overall, the showing and the performance of the car was really, really good.
“It really helped just with the optimism and excitement within the team.
“All those things are really important for a race team and the guys that work so hard, so we’re really looking forward to Long Beach.
“We were on the podium here last year and we know we’ve made huge, huge gains since this time last year, so we’re very optimistic and looking forward to the weekend.”
He knows Saturday’s 100-minute battle on the tight confines of the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit will be tough, though.
Performance in qualifying, the pits and managing traffic all will be magnified in the sprint race.
“This is a hard race,” said Bomarito. “I mean, at street courses, anything can happen. Qualifying is super, super critical.
“Our car seems to be pretty good in mechanical grip and over bumps, that sort of thing. Last year, our two podiums came from street courses, so fingers crossed.
“It’s harder this year. We have new teams, new cars, everything is harder. The level has been raised, but we’ve raised our level as well. Hopefully, we’re right there.”