Oliver Jarvis says the revamped Mazda RT24-P has proven it can be a contender in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after taking the fight to Team Penske last weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Jarvis and co-driver Tristan Nunez combined to score the first podium finish for the Mazda Team Joest partnership in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge and managed to challenge the eventual race-winning Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPis in the early stages of the 2 hour and 40-minute race, which ran caution-free.
The Englishman ran as high as second early on, muscling his way past eventual race winner Ricky Taylor, who battled back through the stint.
While eventually losing out to Taylor through traffic, and Nunez fading in the final hour, Jarvis said he was delighted for the No. 77 Mazda DPi to be in the mix, even if it was clearly Penske’s day.
“To be fighting at the front and racing, that’s what we’re here to do and that’s what we did today. I’m loving it,” Jarvis told Sportscar365.
“I have to say I’m loving the championship so far. It’s hard, good racing. It really is. Especially at this track, there was no respite.
“There was not one lap where you can relax or take a breath. Every couple of corners you were trying to deal with the GT traffic and keep an eye behind and also keep looking ahead.
“We got a podium, that’s something to be proud of, but we want that win.”
Jarvis believes the reliability gains made in the off-season that particularly came to light by the second round of the season at Sebring has put them into instant contention.
“We’re still learning the car because it’s so new,” he said. “The Penske, they did so many days of testing and the Oreca is quite a sorted chassis already. Everybody else has had their cars for a year or more.
“This is basically a new car that was done over winter. We had a few issues to begin with so while we have been testing, we didn’t do the mileage we hoped.
“It’s now that we’re really delving into the setup and I think there’s more to the car. Of course the team’s learning, as drivers we’re still improving and learning.
“We want to win races. We were close today, but we’re going to go to Detroit and the remainder of the season and give it everything we’ve got.”
Mazda’s strong performance on the 3.27-mile circuit bodes well for later this year, according to Jarvis, who is taking part in his first full WeatherTech Championship season.
“[Mid-Ohio] is not a particularly quick track, you run a lot of downforce, so that bodes well for [WeatherTech Raceway] Laguna Seca, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, tracks like that,” he said.
“Somewhere like Long Beach, we lacked a little bit of low-end power compared to the Cadillacs, and on that sort of track it’s difficult to compete with them. But we weren’t bad in Long Beach, so who knows!”