Joest Racing Managing Director Ralf Juttner says he sees “a lot of potential” that can be unlocked with the Mazda RT24-P package, as the legendary German organization is set to begin a dual-continent testing and development program with the car.
The ex-Audi LMP1 squad, which was announced Tuesday as Mazda’s new factory team, expects to begin testing next month in Europe with Mazda’s existing crop of factory drivers, ahead of a debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
According to Juttner, the team will work closely with Mazda’s chassis partner Multimatic during the development process, prior to the car’s final homologation, which is expected later this year.
“We want to bring all the experience we’ve gathered in endurance racing into this project,” Juttner said.
“Therefore, I expect a really, really close relationship with Multimatic on the development of the car and improvements. We’ll bring in whatever we have.
“We all know Multimatic does know how to build race cars; that’s not a question. But we’ll put all our input together and try to come up with the best we can.”
The SpeedSource-run team debuted Multimatic’s first wave of updates at at Watkins Glen last month, aimed to solve a number of engine cooling issues that plagued the turbocharged-powered Mazda in the opening rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
While Juttner admitted there’s still restrictions on what still can be done, as it’s not a complete re-homologation, he feels significant gains can still be made.
“It’s not that you have a clean sheet of paper and can start from scratch; that’s clear,” he said. “But I think there’s still a lot of potential that can be unlocked.
“The other thing is we need to work on reliability because that’s the first thing you have to have. In order to finish on top, that’s clear.
“We’re going together with Multimatic and the IMSA organization and the technical guys there to make sure we don’t leave anything out that we can put [our] hands on.”
The first revised Mazda DPi will be on the ground testing within the next 30-45 days, according to the German.
“The testing will be done with a car that already has some modifications in it,” Juttner said. “We expect more to come throughout the remainder of this year.
“Until then, we have a version that we see is the right one to start the 2018 season with.”
Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan added that the main focus will be to have a competitive package that can consistently fight for wins and the championship.
“I’m definitely interested in our raceability and our ability to compete up front vs. reliability and durability,” Doonan said.
“With those things, I know Ralf and his team are so focused and have such focus on those elements of durability and reliability and being prepared to finish.
“I think my keen interest is going to be on how we’re going to be able to race this package against the best that’s out there.”
Juttner said the decision to begin testing in Europe was simply a case of logistics, with the majority of the team’s resources still in Germany.
A workshop in the Atlanta area, where Joest operated Audi’s factory American Le Mans Series program from 1999-2002, is being finalized and should be operational by late September or early October, he said.
“We have to do a lot of work on the car on our [own] equipment, so we need the car [to be] here to prepare for 2018,” Juttner said.
“We will for sure then go over and go testing in America as well, as we know the circuits and demands are different. I’m 100 percent sure there’s enough we can learn by doing a few tests over here.”