It’s half the team it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less capable of winning the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA.
Mazda Motorsports is down to one entry in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, but it has recent history on its side. The No. 55 Mazda RT24-P won the 2020 season finale — the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts – and its sister car finished third at Sebring and second in last year’s Rolex 24.
All of which leads to optimism for the Rolex 24, which is set for a 3:30 p.m. ET start Saturday.
“I feel like we’re in a really strong place,” said Harry Tincknell, who will co-drive the No. 55 with Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito in the Rolex 24 this weekend. “I feel like there’s a quiet air of optimism around the whole team, whether it’s mechanics, engineers or drivers. I’m very excited.”
Tincknell and Jarvis teamed to finish second Sunday in the Motul Pole Award 100, a 100-minute qualifying race around Daytona International Speedway’s 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. They’ll start alongside the pole-winning No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R when the 59th running of the Rolex 24 begins Saturday at 3:40 p.m. ET.
While confident, the Mazda drivers and crew are aware of the strength of the other six DPi entries — four Cadillacs and two Acuras.
“We’re optimistic, but we haven’t been underestimating our competition,” Jarvis said. “We’ve got some seriously strong drivers and teams out there. We’re just focusing on our job at the moment. If we do everything right, then hopefully we’ll be in a position to fight for the win come Sunday morning.”
Mazda Motorsports pared its DPi participation to one car for 2021 while it considers participating in the LMDh class, which will replace the DPi category as the WeatherTech championship’s top prototype class in 2023.
In the interim, scaling back isn’t necessarily a bad thing. More hands are on one car, and more people are honed in on the No. 55.
“There really aren’t that many personnel changes,” Tincknell said. “From that side, we have a lot more eyes focused on just one car. That’s a real positive. Hopefully, we’ll see the fruits of that.”
So far, Acura, Audi and Porsche have committed to LMDh. Mazda drivers are hopeful they’ll be joining the new class as well. Until they know the answer, Mazda’s three drivers are committed to making their single DPi entry a success at Daytona.
“We’ve just been trying to take things in stride all week here,” Bomarito said. “We feel really good about it. We need to get to Hour 20 with a clean race car still on the lead lap. Then we’ll start feeling really good about it. We have a good game plan. We all feel cautiously optimistic.”
Optimistic enough that the team bypassed Thursday night’s practice session, other than an installation lap after the car’s race engine was installed following the afternoon practice.
There was a single, one-hour practice on Friday for teams to make final adjustments. Loic Duval set the pace in DPi with a lap of 1:35.085 in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac. John Farano led in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) at 1:36.448 in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07. The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, with Alessandro Pier Guidi at the wheel, topped the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class at 1:42.584. Jeroen Bleekemolen was fastest in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), with a lap of 1:43.072 in the No. 91 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320. Franck Perera put the No. 19 GTR Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 atop the GT Daytona (GTD) speed chart with a best circuit of 1:45.583.
Arguably the most modern and advanced technology on the grounds of Daytona International Speedway was put on display Friday afternoon.
Prior to the green flag for the BMW Endurance Challenge race in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Augusto Farfus made a demonstration run in a fully electrified Hyundai Veloster N ETCR. The car is being developed for the WSC (Word Sporting Consulting) Pure ETCR series that is set to debut in June.
IMSA is the exclusive North American partner for WSC and Friday’s demonstration was the first exploratory step toward the possible inclusion of an electrified category in IMSA. The Veloster N ETCR bears visual similarity to the Veloster N TCR that has won the Pilot Challenge Touring Car class (TCR) championship the last two years.
But instead of a production-based driveline featuring an internal combustion engine driving the front wheels, the Veloster N ECTR’s four electric motors drive the rear wheels. Total power output is 500 kilowatts, or 680 horsepower, and falls in line with IMSA’s Green Racing initiative.
“It’s an amazing piece of machinery,” observed IMSA President John Doonan. “IMSA Green was created to showcase all the opportunities we have to demonstrate efficiencies with our 18 manufacturers. Daytona International Speedway has always been a place for showcasing speed. Now we’re showcasing speed and efficiency.
“To be part of this initiative today is very special for all of us at IMSA,” Doonan added. “This is another example of IMSA providing a cost-effective marketing tool for the auto industry.”
The Pure ETCR formula is unique from other forms of electrified racing because it eliminates energy management from the equation. Each event will be comprised of a series of flat-out 10-kilometer sprint races.
WSC delivers the power unit and other components to Hyundai and the three other competing manufacturers in kit form.
Farfus completed a handful of laps of the 3.56-mile Daytona road course and impressed pit lane observers with the Veloster N ETCR’s rapid acceleration.
“It’s an honor to showcase the car in such a beautiful facility,” said Farfus, who is attempting to earn his third consecutive Rolex 24 GT Le Mans (GTLM) class win for BMW Team RLL this weekend. “Daytona is an icon for motorsport in America, so it’s a great opportunity to show this new platform to race fans. I think we are going to put on a good show around the world. It’s going to be different but very unique, and I think the fans will love it.
“It makes me proud knowing this will lead to a new series, with new technology that could lead in the long term to road cars.”
Live coverage of the Rolex 24 kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC. Throughout the 24 hours, coverage shifts to NBCSN, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and the NBC Sports App before returning to NBC at 2 p.m. Sunday for the concluding hours. IMSA Radio also offers flag-to-flag coverage on IMSA Radio.com and RadioLeMans.com.
Fans wanting to attend the Rolex 24 can do so with two-day admissions to the storied, twice-around-the-clock event with tickets just $68 with kids 12 and under free. Guests will safely experience a host of sights and sounds that include a fireworks show, the Ferris Wheel at the Boardwalk, entry into the infield UNOH Fanzone, and a host of fun exhibits and displays. To learn more on the Rolex 24 and opportunities to witness the race in person, call 1-800-PITSTOP or log onto www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Rolex 24 will be conducted in accordance with enhanced safety protocols and procedures to provide a safe environment for guests, IMSA competitors, employees and the local community. All guests will be screened before entering the facility and will be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six feet social distancing throughout their visit.
For a schedule of on-track activities and protocols, logo onto www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest speedway news.
About Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is a state-of-the-art motorsports facility and was awarded the SportsBusiness Journal’s prestigious Sports Business Award for Sports Facility of the Year in 2016. Daytona International Speedway is the home of The Great American Race – the DAYTONA 500. Though the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series event garners most of the attention – as well as the largest audience in motorsports – the approximately 500-acre motorsports complex, also known as the World Center of Racing, boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe. In addition to at least nine major event weekends, the Speedway grounds are also used extensively for events that include concerts, civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing and police motorcycle training.