Mazda will make its long-awaited return to the ranks of prototype racing in 2014 when it enters a pair of factory-backed P2 cars in the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship.
The Japanese brand will transition from 2013’s two-car Grand-Am Rolex GX Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D diesel program to compete in the TUDOR Championship’s new Prototype class, utilizing the same 2.2-liter bi-turbo SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel powerplant from the GX cars, albeit with performance- and packaging-based changes made to suit the Multimatic-built P2 chassis.
Longtime Mazda solution provider SpeedSource Race Engineering has been charged with running the entire program on the manufacturer’s behalf.
“We could not be more pleased to announce the fact that Mazda will be back competing for overall victories in the top prototype category with IMSA and the United Sports Car Championship,” said John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations.
“This program represents Mazda’s most significant and ambitious motorsports initiative in decades – really, since we took on the challenge of racing at Le Mans, which ultimately resulted in our victory at the 24-hour race in 1991.”
Mazda and SpeedSource embarked upon the P2 program while the 2013 season was still under way, allowing for a longer development phase to tailor the small, four-cylinder SKYACTIV diesels to the Lola-based prototypes. By the time the 2014 season gets under way, it’s possible the cars could be homologated under the Mazda brand name.
“This P2 program represents step two in development of the SKYACTIV diesel engine in motor racing; step one was achieved in the Grand-Am Rolex Series in 2013 where we won with the Mazda6, but we definitely felt the need to turn things up a notch and go after overall wins,” added Doonan.
“That’s probably the biggest aspect of this program that has resonated with me and so many of Mazda’s partners. It won’t be an easy proposition because there are a lot of experienced teams and manufacturers to contend with in the United series, but Mazda’s story has always been about taking on the biggest challenges, no matter how tough they are. That’s certainly the spirit behind entering the Prototype class.”
Mazda entrusted Sylvain Tremblay and his Florida-based SpeedSource team to produce its Mazda6 GX cars, and that relationship continues with the SKYACTIV prototypes where the company has done extensive development with the diesel mills.
Tremblay’s outfit will face a steep learning curve as it competes with prototypes for the first time, but with a veteran team of mechanics and engineers, not to mention the recent addition of former GAINSCO crew chief Link Smith to the program, Doonan is confident in the product SpeedSource will deliver.
“We’ve had a long history with Sylvain and his group from kart racing to now the top level of sports car racing,” said Doonan. “The two-car program has been a significant undertaking for everyone, but all of our partners are up to the task. SpeedSource continues to do an amazing job for Mazda, and we have no doubt that will continue.
“We’re working with Multimatic to develop the car. And we’ve also continued our partnership with Bosch Motorsport, continuing the development we started in 2013. There are more partners that will be announced in the coming weeks that will also play integral roles in our future success.”
Working from the general P2 engine framework set out by the ACO, Mazda’s SKYACTIV-D Smart Diesel has been built to specifications provided by IMSA. The production-based powerplant retains a similar level of stock componentry as the GX engines, and Doonan says Mazda will continue to work with the ACO to gain approval for the engine’s use at Le Mans and in other sports car series.
“We will continue to use close to 50 percent of the production engine components,” Doonan explained. “Obviously, when you bolt the engine into a prototype chassis, the packaging is different from the tubeframe GX cars; the cooling system has changed to meet the needs of the P2 car, the turbocharger system, the plumbing and other detail items have changed, but for the most part, it has just been a case of adapting what we ran in the GX car.
“Looking ahead, 2014 is about continuing our development and working to refine a package that would allow us to offer this SKYACTIV diesel powerplant to P2 customers worldwide. We want to return to Le Mans in the near future, and we’ve been working with the ACO to find a happy medium to show what a production-based diesel can do compared to the other production-based P2 engines at Le Mans, in the WEC, and the ELMS.”
Confirmation of Mazda’s driver lineup is expected to follow soon after today’s P2 announcement. The first Mazda P2 car performed its initial shakedown at Sebring in late October, and the team will continue to test privately, skipping the upcoming Sebring and Daytona tests. The first public outing for the cars will come in early January at Daytona.
“Mazda has been very dedicated to driver development, both on the open wheel and the sports car side,” Doonan noted. “So you can look for our lineup to be built around drivers that have been with us through several steps of that program. We look forward to the Roar Before the 24 where we will be able to show the world what we’ve been working on.”