Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan has revealed ambitions of offering the Mazda RT24-P to customer teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, potentially by as early as the end of next year.
The new-for-2017 Prototype, based on the Riley Mk. 30 LMP2 chassis, will debut in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona with the SpeedSource-run Mazda Motorsports squad.
“My goal is to show some reliability in the engine front and then I’d love to see the opportunity to run customers down the road,” Doonan told Sportscar365.
“I don’t know if it will be during this season or 2018, but everything Mazda does from grassroots-up is customer-based and that’s what I’d love to see us do.”
Doonan said Mazda’s 2017-spec MZ-2.0T engine, which made its on-track debut in Tuesday’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona, features updates focused largely on improving reliability.
The AER-built turbo showcased impressive speed throughout the 2016 season in the team’s Lola-based prototypes, claiming three poles and setting numerous fast laps, but was unable to score an overall podium finish after multiple missed opportunities.
“Assuming everything works out, we could put forth a reliable, competitive and championship-winning package, then I’d be real comfortable [providing customer cars]” Doonan added.
Per IMSA rules, teams with the same chassis linked to the DPi manufacturer would be able to upgrade their car to DPi-spec at any time, which Doonan said could provide an easy route for customers.
According to Troy Flis of Visit Florida Racing, which had initially been linked to a Mazda DPi, the Japanese manufacturer remains one of his options for the future.
“There’s that and also other manufacturers,” Flis told Sportscar365. “That’s why I did what I did here [in purchasing the a Riley-Gibson].
“We were close with multiple manufacturers and it just seemed to me that that they knew [being ready for Daytona] could be the problem. I totally get it and totally agree with them.”
Flis said they will take delivery of a second Riley-Gibson next month, which would provide them with added flexibility in its planned move to DPi for 2018.
“That’s the reason for my second car,” he said. “We could make that car into a manufacturer car. That’s my main goal.
“If I can get my manufacturer deal done, I’ll start testing that car mid-season next year and I won’t have any conflicts by running a Gibson so I can do whatever I need to do.”
Even though it’s allowed in the rules, Flis has essentially ruled out making a mid-season switch to a DPi.