One of the worst kept secrets in the sports car racing paddock was made official Thursday morning, as Mazda announced that it will enter next year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with a two-car factory P2 program utilizing SKYACTIV-D technology.
The Japanese manufacturer, which spent the past season campaigning Mazda6 race cars in the now-defunct GX category, will utilize the same 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel power plant in the back of Lola-based prototype chassis for the 2014 TUDOR Championship season.
SPEED: Q&A With John Doonan
It will mark the first diesel-powered car to race in the combined Prototype class, with Mazda’s longtime partner SpeedSource, set to debut the cars in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona with a to-be-announced driver lineup.
While having originally announced plans for a customer SKACTIV-D LMP2 engine program at Le Mans in 2012, the project had taken a back seat until the sports car racing landscape, particularly in North America, became a bit clearer.
“When we announced in June 2012, we had every intention of delivering on that,” Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan told Sportscar365. “The goal is to absolutely provide customer engines for LMP2, as that is the philosophy of the class.
“When the merger was announced in the U.S., I think everybody took a step back and it impacted people’s planning decisions. We were under the gun to do the Mazda6 for Daytona. We kind of put the [LMP2 project] on the back burner temporarily.
“But we’re here, we’re back. It’s a big part of the executive’s plan in the U.S. and Japan to do a customer LMP2 program.”
The first step to achieve their long-term goal, Doonan says, is to prove that Mazda’s clean diesel technology can fight for overall wins. Its new Prototype effort is part of a multi-year strategy beginning with a factory development program run by the Florida-based SpeedSource outfit.
“We feel that this is a great platform to run in the top category, compete for overall wins and show the world what the package is in terms of reliability, durability and quality,” Doonan said. “All of those things need to be shown before we can offer customers a package that they’re comfortable with.”
The team has already taken delivery of two brand-new Lola B12/80 chassis, the first to be manufactured by Multimatic, while having also completed a rollout at Sebring last week. Doonan says they will continue private testing until making its public debut at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 3-5.
Further announcements, including the full-season driver lineup, are expected to be made by the end of the year.
Official confirmation of Mazda’s prototype plans gives a significant boost to the P2 ranks, which will now see a minimum of six to eight cars on the grid for the season, alongside upgraded Daytona Prototypes and the expected entry from the DeltaWing.