• Mazda aiming for strong IMSA finish

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    After a disappointing start at Daytona, the Mazda Prototype racing team is eyeing better results at Sebring. IMSA.COM

    After a disappointing start at Daytona, the Mazda Prototype racing team is eyeing better results at Sebring. IMSA.COM

    The Mazda Prototype racing team is gunning for podium at this season’s International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship despite a lackluster start at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought of that,” Mazda North America director of motor sports John Doonan said. “That whole scenario has gone through my head, just like it has gone through the head of every team member. I want it for all those people who have worked so hard. At least now, when we leave the garage area, we know we’re going to be in the hunt.”

    Even though the team’s pair of racers went the fastest since they joined the endurance series in 2014, neither of them finished because of problems that didn’t show up in extensive pre-season testing. The gas-fired MZ-2.0T is similar to the engine the Dyson team ran in Le Mans Prototype 1 competition in the American Le Mans Series, although only the block is carried over. Meanwhile, the other engines used in the Prototype class have logged more race miles.

    “We’re still learning,” Doonan said. “We left Daytona with a spring in our step, knowing we can run up front. It was encouraging – more positives than negatives.”

    The more successful run came from the No. 55 car, which took the overall lead four hours into the race with driver Jonathan Bomarito. He pitted for a driver change while leading at the six-hour mark for Spencer Pigot to take over, but the engine wouldn’t restart and the team lost three laps to change the electronic control unit. Pigot regained the three laps and turned the car over to Tristan Nunez, who had to park the No. 55 just short of the halfway mark for valvetrain problems and a subsequent fire.

    Meanwhile, the No. 70 car died 20 minutes into the race, with Tom Long at the helm, because of a failed crankshaft and flywheel that were too damaged to repair in time to return to the race. Doonan said none of these issues showed up in testing.

    The Speed Source team moves to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with the same driver lineup, plus one new driver that Doonan said he can’t name, pending finalized contracts. The March 20 race is a week after the IndyCar season opener in Saint Petersburg, where Pigot will make his IndyCar debut for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. But Doonan said he expects to have Pigot back in the car at Sebring.

    VJ Bacungan

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