Getting two cars to the end of the Rolex 24 at Daytona despite losing out on the win was a “huge step” for Mazda, according to the brand’s motorsport director Nelson Cosgrove.
Until last weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener, all six of Mazda’s previous efforts in the top prototype class had resulted in double retirements.
Furthermore, no works-affiliated Mazda prototype had reached the Daytona checkered flag since a 767b in 1989, while a privateer car made the end more recently in 2002.
Ending an 18-year wait for a finish in the top class, the No. 77 Mazda DPi came through on the lead lap in second place, while the No. 55 battled problems to finish 10 laps down in sixth.
“It’s a huge step for us,” Cosgrove told Sportscar365.
“Coming out of here during the DPi era, we’ve been on the back foot.
“We came down here, we were on the pole, the thing ran like a top the whole time and was a big part of our success today too. We worked really well as one team.
“You’ve got to thank everyone that’s involved: Team Joest, AER on the engine side, and of course Multimatic and all they do for the program.
“Everybody that we have in Irvine that supports us, our motorsports team is scattered around the country, but the people there and the people in Hiroshima that support us, it’s a huge day for Mazda Racing.”
Cosgrove explained that Mazda’s intensive winter testing program with the RT24-P helped lead to a more reliable run in this year’s Rolex 24.
“We did some engine testing over the winter,” he said. “We did a couple of days at Daytona in October, we did a day at Sebring, and we did a couple more days at Daytona.
“So specifically, at this racetrack [Daytona] and running in Florida, we did a lot of it.
“We weren’t clean in that testing. I think the good thing is we found a lot of the stuff so the AER guys and Michael Wilson, they worked really hard to drive those problems to the ground.
“I think we were successful in doing that. It’s little stuff, but it doesn’t take much to make one of these things stop. We had a really good, solid winter of testing.”
No. 55 Car “Could Barely Get By” the GTs
Jonathan Bomarito, who shared the No. 55 Mazda DPi with Harry Tincknell and Ryan Hunter-Reay, described the extent of the boost problems that cost a double top-five result for the manufacturer.
While Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla delivered a podium in the white No. 77 machine, Mazda’s other car was forced to run in survival mode to the finish.
Bomarito said that the team felt it would be better to keep the car out at a reduced pace rather than bringing it to the garage for repairs.
“As far as our day went, until the last four hours we were OK and in the hunt,” he told Sportscar365.
“We don’t know for sure yet, but I think [the issue] it was something to do with the boost on the turbo side, leaking.
“We were just trying to survive and salvage as many points as we could at that time. For the most part, it was good. We went down a lap early and got the lap back and managed dour race properly.
“It was actually happening for a long time. It really just didn’t get bad enough until it was apparent for everybody else to see until about four hours to go.
“We were way underpowered. With a small two-liter engine like this, if you start losing boost that’s everything.
“At the end, we could barely get by the GT cars. We were running 1:46 lap times around 10 seconds off the pace. We would have lost more laps by trying to fix the problem than just staying out.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report