Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan says they’re confident of competing for wins and the Prototype championship with its Mazda RT24-P, which is set to feature engine-related updates for the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The Japanese manufacturer, which ended the 2018 season with its first double podium finish at Motul Petit Le Mans, has rolled out updated internal components to its AER-built MZ-2.0T powerplant that will no longer keep the engine at the upper limits of its power output.
Doonan said the enhancements to the 2.0-liter turbo will allow it to “not work as hard” compared to this season, which saw bullet-proof engine reliability from Sebring onwards.
“Given the class structure change, we presented to IMSA some ideas to get us off that ceiling as the smallest displacement engine, to make sure we can still compete in the format they’ve created without being on the edge of any of the components,” Doonan told Sportscar365.
“AER has done an amazing job, Multimatic has done a great job integrating. Anybody that sees the installation, they’ll see the engine bay is a lot cleaner.”
Doonan said they’ve benefitted from AER’s “fresh” dyno protocol, which has seen the updated engine complete long-distance runs alongside an initial on-track testing program in Europe.
“The beauty of having Multimatic as a partner is that they have facilities in a lot of different places, including the UK.” Doonan said. “They’ve been putting tons of resources behind the testing to make sure we’re getting everything out of the car.”
Much like Cadillac’s updated engine for 2018, Mazda’s latest enhancement will be subject to IMSA re-certification that includes dyno testing at NASCAR’s R&D facility in Concord, N.C., which is scheduled for next month.
After nearly pulling off an elusive first win on multiple occasions this year, Doonan said the motivation is at an all-time high within the Mazda Team Joest camp.
“Everyone, to a man and a woman, wants to win so bad,” he said. “I think the drivers have taken their [training] to a higher level.
“Multimatic and AER are giving it everything they’ve got. The race team is twisting every bit they know how to do to prepare.
“If I were to rewind the clock to where we were at this point last year, making the transition to a new team and their first time working with this car… I think everybody feels like this is a continuation of the 2018 season as opposed to a fresh start for 2019.
“Obviously the momentum we had, from Sebring and towards the middle to late part of the season, it just kept building all year.
“We hope the climax comes soon and we can realize success, not just once but lots of times, and by Petit next year, be in a position where we’re competing for the big prize.”
Positive Impressions With Michelin Tires
Doonan said early running on Michelin’s new-for-2019 tire options has been a positive learning experience, as well as a reunion of sorts between the two organizations.
Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez completed a successful single-day track run at Sebring earlier this month, with Team Joest slated to also take part in Michelin’s sixth and final ‘On Track Opportunity’ at Daytona on Dec. 11.
“Mazda and BF Goodrich have had a long relationship back to the ’70s and ’80s,” Doonan said. “We won Le Mans in ’84 in the C2 class.
“With the MX-5 Cup we work with them all the time, so we know all the people, and that’s the key element. So far the consistency, the product and how quickly it comes up to temperature is critical.
“Now it’s about tweaking, besides the endurance side, the performance and how we can maximize that being the chassis that we have.
“We’re pretty nimble, a little bit lighter weight as a package compared to the others, so it’s about maximizing that to our best of our abilities.”