Looking for Improvements

The definition of success always depends on the goal one starts with. A first down is usually the first step toward a touchdown in football. A touchdown is the first step toward winning the game. Each is a small success on the way to a bigger success. So each TUDOR United Sports Car Championship race Mazda and SpeedSource Race Engineering contest with the new Mazda Prototypes brings them closer to the goal of victory and championships.

The No. 07 car came within an hour of the finish in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. That’s 11 hours longer than Saturday’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, a pretty good sign. The No. 70 covered some 1300 miles – almost the distance of last year’s Sebring winner. While it’s not a direct comparison because Daytona is a much faster and smoother track than Sebring, and this year’s race winner will likely cover a much smaller distance, it is, once again, a positive indicator that the Mazda Prototypes can go the distance.

“I think in the 12-hour race we won’t run into the same situations we ran into in the 24-hour race,” says David Haskell, SpeedSource’s team engineer and strategist. “We’ve found a lot of stuff with the engine that caused what happened then. I think for the 12 Hour and any of the shorter races after that, we shouldn’t have any issues.

One of the issues is still cooling the SKYACTIV diesel engine, and SpeedSource has been working with chassis designer Lola to combat that. The next step will be raising the output of the engine, but that probably won’t happen until after Sebring. Still, the different demands of Sebring’s 3.74-mile, 17-turn concrete-and-asphalt circuit could play more in favor of the LMP2-style prototypes, which the Mazdas are, vs. the Daytona Prototypes.

“Sebring is less of a horsepower track than Daytona. But it still is a horsepower track. We’re still going to be deficient. But we’ve got the car handling well, braking well and the drivers got a lot more comfortable with it at the Sebring test. We ran seven hours with it, I believe, so we ran a lot of time. We’re still going to be off the pace, but we’ll be closer than we were,” says Haskell.

There are many good things that the team found in testing at Sebring, but isn’t prepared to introduce. For an endurance race, reliability is key, so it’s better to go with what they know. But they have a few things that they’ll plan on implementing for Long Beach.

Each lap the cars turn, the team learns something. One of the challenges they’ve found is getting the car out of the pits – the SKYACTIV-D engine develops a lot of torque, but not until the engine develops boost.

“We’ve got the pit strategy figured out,” Haskell says. “The most challenging thing is launching the car leaving the pits. At Sebring we did some testing with that and will continue to do more testing. It’s tough to launch, but we’re working through that stuff.”

The 62nd Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. The first three hours can be seen on Fox Sports 1, with the remainder live on IMSA.com. Mazda will also be streaming live from one of the cars.