IMSA Spotlight: John Doonan
Mazda Motorsports North America Director
With a 6th place finish (team’s best-ever result) and both Mazda Prototypes finishing inside the top-10 overall — with no major issues — were you pleased with the Twelve Hours of Sebring?
“We were pleased, yes. But not satisfied. To show the pace we did for the entire 12 hours without any mechanical issues is a sign of how far we’ve come with the new MZ-2.0T engine. But we’re here to race for wins, and we made a few mistakes early that took away what could have been much better finishes.”
What does the result at Sebring do for the morale of the team, after the struggles through the first two years of Prototype program?
“The morale is good. We all understood the diesel program was a development effort, and now comes the pay-offs for all of us at Mazda Motorsports, the crew and drivers who worked so hard for those years. I’ll be thrilled for them when we break through for a victory.”
How do you think the Mazda MZ-2.0T engine will perform on the streets of Long Beach?
“Street circuits aren’t ideal for our chassis, but we know we have the speed now. It’s only a 100-minute race, so we have to be mistake-free.”
2017 in approaching and there’s a lot of talk about DPi. Where does Mazda currently stand on its potential/likely involvement in the prototype class for next year?
“We’re committed to racing in 2017 and beyond with the new rules, but we can’t share any details right now. We believe the development of the new engine will only make us more competitive next season.”
Tell us about the Mazda Road to 24 and your initiatives to bring the sports car racing talent through the Mazda ladder…
“We continue to refine our sports car driver development program. As the sports car sanctioning bodies continue to refine the various development series such as LMP3, Mazda evaluates those programs that can support both our driver development and corporate goals.
“In 2015, we renamed the sports car driver development ladder to align with our open-wheel program called the Mazda Road to Indy. Mazda loves to help young drivers reach for their dreams, so we currently award scholarships to series champions that allow them to climb the ladder to race in the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich, then the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires.
“The top reward is a test in our Prototype car. All of our current full-time Prototype drivers have come through the program – either on the sports car side or in the Mazda Road to Indy.
“We also have a year-end MRT24 Shootout, which brings together many of our grassroots Mazda champions. To win that scholarship, you must be a champion in a grassroots championship driving in a Mazda. Then, they earn a spot in the finals by submitting a business plan and video.
“If you’re a finalist, you meet with many of our staff and then perform on the race track against approximately 8-10 other finalists to earn the $100,000 scholarship into the Global MX-5 Cup series.
“This year, we’re excited that Glenn McGee won the scholarship. He’s a world champion on iRacing, and he’s never done a season in real cars. He’s talented and very smooth on the track, so we’ll see how he does when the race season kicks off at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in April.”