Lucas di Grassi says he’s enjoying his return to endurance racing this weekend at Motul Petit Le Mans and is hopeful it can lead to more outings with Mazda Team Joest in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Brazilian, who made the shift to sports car racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship with the Joest-run Audi LMP1 program following a career in single seaters, has been primarily focused on Formula E since the end of Audi’s involvement in prototype racing.
While his move to the all-electric single-seater series with Audi has seen di Grassi achieve a series championship and eight race wins, he said he was eager to return to sports car racing when the opportunity presented itself.
“It’s my first endurance race in a prototype since Bahrain in 2016 when we stopped the program with Audi and with Joest,” he told Sportscar365.
“I was looking for the right opportunity to come back and when Mazda asked me to do the race I felt that the car was competitive and I knew the team and my teammates.
“I’ve never raced in [a U.S. series] and this is a very iconic race. I felt like it was a good opportunity to come back.
“I’m still getting up to speed with the track. It’s a very technical track, very difficult getting speed with the car, but I’m adapting and I’m happy with my adaptation.”
While the Mazda RT24-P may lack some of the technical sophistication and raw power of the diesel-hybrid Audi LMP1 machines that he has driven in the past, di Grassi said the LMP2-based Mazda DPi had plenty of similarities.
“It is one of the fastest cars I’ve raced,” he said. “It’s not as fast of course as the LMP1 because of the restrictions and the hybrid, but it has a lot of downforce and it’s super quick in the corners.
“Also with the turbocharger, it’s a bit like the diesel from Audi. You have to time when you go on power. These are technicalities that you need to stay on top of.”
Di Grassi was quick to thank his teammates for helping him get up to speed, and noted many of the Joest employees working on the program are the same that were with him in his last prototype outing with Audi in 2016, which further eased the transition.
The combination of that familiarity and a competitive car has di Grassi thoroughly enjoying his time at Road Atlanta and hopeful for a return to the IMSA paddock down the road.
“I think we have a good pace,” he said. “If there’s nothing like a crash or a breakdown or something, I think the car can be fighting for the victory.
“The car has a good potential, the team is prepared, and between the drivers in our car the average is very good. We’re very close in time, so I’m excited.
“I’ve seen a lot of old friends like [Joest managing director] Ralf [Ruttner], some mechanics, and engineers. There are a lot of old faces but a lot of new ones from the Mazda side and they’ve treated me super nicely welcoming me to the team.
“I’m having a great time and I’m looking forward to hopefully coming back in the future for more races here.”