Harry Tincknell said taking Mazda to victory in the final race of its DPi operation was like a “Hollywood” ending after starting the program “spraying fire extinguishers” at the car.
Tincknell and co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito closed the chapter of the Japanese manufacturer’s prototype involvement with a come-from-behind win after initially going three laps down due to a spark plug change early in the running.
Gaining the laps back through wave-bys amid a flurry of full-course cautions, the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P emerged back on the lead lap by the sixth hour.
Tincknell took over the lead with a bold pass around the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Nasr with 22 minutes to go after reeling in the Brazilian in his closing stint.
“We had to take slightly more fuel aboard on the final pit stop,” Tincknell explained. “The gap worked its way back out to about six seconds and I just kinda said to myself, ‘keep pushing’.
“With traffic, one lap to the next, you can gain three or four seconds. I just pushed as hard as I can.
“Our car likes to be dragged to the very limit. It was on the limit the whole way around.
“I managed to catch up with him. To be honest I just had a feeling the whole race that opportunity was going to open up through [Turns] 6 into 7.
“It’s a big dive-bomb into there; it’s not really a normal passing place. I also knew in the back of his head he had the championship to think about as well.
“I just kind of set myself up through [Turn] 6 and sent it super hard, super late. I think those moves, you have to be 110 percent committed otherwise it ends with a crash.
“The end was just as intense as it was all way through with the traffic. I was just praying the traffic fell my way. I got a little bit closer there with one of the Corvettes.”
Tincknell added: “I wanted this one so much for the team, so much for the fans. Multimatic, Mazda, AER.
“At the start of the program we were spraying fire extinguishers at it. Now we’re spraying champagne at Petit Le Mans, one of the biggest races in the world.
“The turnaround was incredible. It was typical Mazda fashion.
“We were looking really good early on, had a little setback but you just never give up and never stop challenging as the Mazda slogan goes.
“I’m proud of JB and Olly and everyone. It’s been an amazing four years of being in IMSA. It’s been a great ride.”
The Petit Le Mans win marked the fourth major endurance victory for the program after two previous wins in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen as well as last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“I think the occasion of the whole weekend, for me, this is the biggest Mazda win,” Jarvis said. “It was the last race but also the way the race panned out.
“We were three laps down and to win it by one second fighting to take the lead in the last stint, the combination of all of that makes this the greatest Mazda victory and the perfect way to send the car off and to say thank you to everyone involved.
“This is four years of blood, sweat and tears to get the program to this point. It’s such a shame it’s not continuing but we’re just thankful that we’ve been a part of it.”
Tincknell said they approached the weekend like a typical race and didn’t let the emotions “take control.”
“I don’t think within the team we let the pressure get to us that this was the last dance, this was the last chance to get a win,” he said.
“All weekend, the atmosphere has been very, very similar to any other race, which has been very good because you could let all of the emotions take control of you.
“To go out with a win is the Hollywood story and it’s not like we were given a load of BoP to make it happen. [The car] is exactly the same as when we struggled in the last two races.
“It was a huge effort to the team. We never gave up and came back strong and won it in true Mazda style.”