– New Mazda MZ-2.0T engine means high expectations –
IRVINE, Calif. (March 15, 2016) – The 64th edition of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring fueled by ‘Fresh from Florida’ will take the green flag at 10:40 AM (Eastern Time) Saturday morning for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series. Two Mazda Prototypes are expected to battle for victory in the once-around-the-clock endurance battle, the second race of the young season. The new Mazda MZ-2.0T engine – which powered the No. 55 Mazda into the overall lead three times at the Rolex 24 at Daytona before mechanical difficulties – has been tested extensively at Sebring. The team covered more than a race distance over two days of testing late last year at the infamously bumpy airport circuit. The two-liter, inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine made its racing debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January.
Going for 14
The Mazda Prototype team is aiming to add to a long winning tradition at the treacherous Sebring circuit. Mazda has recorded 13 class victories at Sebring, dating back to 1980 when a Mazda RX-7 rotary powered car won the GTU category. The most recent class victory took place in 2012, when a Lola/Mazda Prototype won the P1/ALMS2 category.
Joel Miller, Driver, Mazda Prototype No. 70
“We were disappointed at Daytona [after dropping out of the race], but we left there with a smile because we immediately began looking forward to Sebring. It’s a track that seems to suit our cars because it rewards high downforce, and I think we can show a lot of strength. We know the car is competitive, so we’re itching to show we can do it. We’ve done a lot of testing there, we have a proven car and we know how to get the most out of it.
“The strategy of these endurance races is like a long sprint race. You have to push to stay up front, and you want to be at the front before the sun goes down. I think it will be a fast pace and everyone will be ‘on it.’ For me, personally, I can’t wait to get racing. I love Sebring, and it’s where I had a Pro Mazda victory back in 2008.”
Keiko Ihara Joins Mazda Prototype team, Pigot and Devlin return
Japanese driver Keiko Ihara (KAY-ko EE-hara) will join the driver lineup in the No. 70 Mazda Prototype for the 12 Hour race. Ihara has extensive prototype, sports car and open wheel experience. She was the first female to earn a podium finish in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and multiple entries at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. She leads the Mazda Women in Motorsport Project in Japan and serves on the FIA Women in Motorsports Commission. Ihara tested the Mazda Prototype late last year at Palm Beach International Raceway, and has conducted multiple days of testing the digital version of the Mazda Prototype in the “Driver in the Loop” simulator at Multimatic Motorsports near Toronto.
“I’m very happy to join the Mazda Prototype team,” said Ihara. “I’ve been away from racing for a year to build-up the Mazda Women in Motorsport Project in Japan and I come back to an exciting race. I finished the 2014 WEC race season on the podium back-to-back, so I’d like to finish the race and stand on the podium this time. I got familiar with the car in the test session in December and the engine feeling was very good.”
Spencer Pigot, fresh from his IndyCar debut Sunday at St. Petersburg, Fla., will make his second start with the No. 55 Mazda. Long-time Mazda racer Ben Devlin will be in the No. 70 car.
Mazda Prototype Driver Lineup for 12 Hours of Sebring
No. 55 Mazda: Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito, Spencer Pigot
No. 70 Mazda: Tom Long, Joel Miller, Ben Devlin, Keiko Ihara
Mazda Road to 24 also in action at Sebring
The Mazda Road to 24, a driver development program to help drivers climb the sports car racing ladder, will be in action at Sebring with races Thursday and Friday. The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge will feature four Mazda MX-5s from Freedom Autosport and ALARA Racing in the ST class. The Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires will kick-off the 2016 season with a pair of races. The series features identical Elan DP02 chassis with the Mazda two-liter MZR engine in each. The most recent Lites champions, Kenton Koch and Mikhail Goikhberg, were two of the winning drivers in the PC class at January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Mazda STEM Returns to Tampa, March 21
Mazda’s national-touring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, called R.A.C.E. (Racing Accelerates Creative Education), will roll into Tampa’s Middleton High School Monday morning, March 21. The program has reached more than 20,000 students, and is designed to motivate high schoolers by using the excitement of Prototype racing to illustrate the many career options in the STEM disciplines. Mazda racer Joel Miller, who is also a mechanical engineer, will helm the presentations. The students will also have a chance to see a Mazda Prototype race car up-close. (Media are invited to attend the event. Contact Jade Gurss for full details.)
Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder which culminates in the Mazda Prototype team that races in the top level of IMSA sports car racing in North America. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar system in open-wheel racing, which includes USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights racing categories with Mazda power. The new MX-5 Cup car makes its debut in 2016, with affordable, turnkey race cars. In the grassroots categories, more Mazdas road race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Since 2000, Mazda has been the title sponsor of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through nearly 700 dealers. Operations in Mexico are managed by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City. For more information on Mazda vehicles, including photography and B-roll, please visit the online Mazda media center at www.mazdausamedia.com.
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