Newly-announced Mazda Team Joest driver Harry Tincknell said his deal with the manufacturer has its roots in a conversation with Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan back in 2015.
A former European Le Mans Series LMP2 champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner, Tincknell was one of five Mazda drivers to turn laps in this week’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona.
No stranger to European sports car racing audiences, Tincknell has long been intrigued with the U.S. racing scene.
His encounter with Doonan several years ago, plus a few helpful connections, got the ball rolling toward his double program in 2018 that will see the Englishman continue in his full-time role with Ford in the FIA World Endurance Championship alongside his Mazda debut in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“I first met John in 2015 at Daytona, and to be honest ever since I won Le Mans in 2014 I’ve been looking at opportunities in IMSA and trying to do more racing in the States,” Tincknell told Sportscar365.
“It’s been on my radar for quite a long time. We had initial conversations in 2015 but at that time there wasn’t anything available.
“We kept in contact ever since, and obviously with Multimatic being a technical partner of Mazda and building and running the Ford GT in the WEC, there is some common interest there.
“With Team Joest coming back on board, Allan [McNish, Tincknell’s manager] has a long history with them, so it was quite a natural fit from that point of few.
“Obviously there were some hurdles to overcome in terms of being able to race a double program, and I have to say a massive thank you to Ford as well for allowing me to do both programs.”
One of those hurdles was a calendar clash between the WEC round at Spa and the IMSA race weekend at Mid-Ohio that will cause Tincknell to miss one round of next year’s WeatherTech Championship.
Tincknell said he was thankful to both Mazda and Ford for accommodating his schedule, and added that his past experience with dual programs has him confident that strong results are in store for both camps.
“I must say Ford is very flexible with all of us drivers and have been since the very start of the program,” he said.
“I raced in the European Le Mans Series in 2016 alongside races in the WEC, and we had a successful WEC program.
“We managed to win a championship with G-Drive JOTA Sport in 2016, so it proved from that side that it wouldn’t affect me or distract me. I can still be 100 percent committed to both.
“They were very open to allow me to do this opportunity. It keeps me sharp for the WEC races.
“It’s going to be very tough only having one race at Spa before going into Le Mans, but now I’m going to have a 12-hour [race] at Sebring and a 24-hour at Daytona under my belt before the big race at Le Mans.
“It’s great from that side, and being at these U.S. tracks is massive for my career. I think this is really a big moment being able to combine both championships and get some exposure in the States.
“I’m going to grab both opportunities with both hands and really fight to get the same results that I’ve had in Europe over in North America.”
Tincknell said the allure of claiming some of the sport’s biggest prizes made the WeatherTech Championship an attractive destination.
“I want to win all the big races in my career, and there’s certainly three massive sports car races in the States with Daytona, Sebring, and Petit,” he said.
“I think now, with the [Tequila Patron] North American Endurance Cup as well, that’s a great addition to IMSA. IMSA’s just growing and getting stronger all the time.
“I really like the DPi rules and that format and the grids are just growing and getting stronger and stronger.
“IMSA’s really becoming the place to be at the moment. Look at the manufacturers, drivers, and teams involved.
“It’s fantastic. It’s something I’ve wanted to be a part of for awhile and I’m really glad it’s happened this year. “