– Fourth and fifth place finishes beat previous best result of sixth –
IRVINE, Calif. (April 16, 2016) – For the second race in a row, the two-car Mazda Prototype team recorded best-ever qualifying and race results, with finishes of fourth and fifth at the BUBBA burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The No. 70 Mazda Prototype, with drivers Tom Long and Joel Miller, started third, then led the race for three laps before coming home with a fourth-place finish. The No. 55 Mazda, with drivers Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito, kicked off the weekend as the quickest car overall in the first practice session (another first for the team). After starting seventh, Nunez climbed to second place behind teammate Long. (It is the first time the team has run first and second place in a race.) After pit stops for fuel, tires and driver changes, Miller and Bomarito closed out the race with top-five finishes.
To add to the excitement of the day, hundreds of employees from Mazda’s North American headquarters in nearby Irvine, Calif., cheered on the team from the grandstands. The optimism is very high for the team, as the next event is a ‘home race’ in two weeks at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The track’s flowing and smooth layout is ideal for the team’s chassis.
Tom Long, driver, No. 70 Mazda Prototype
About jumping into second place at the start of the race: “It was pretty exciting. We had a phenomenal start, and when the front row started to rub going into Turn 1, I thought ‘OK, here’s our opportunity.” As the No. 5 car started to go toward the tires, I just let the brake go and rolled right across the center of the turn into second place. I felt like our Mazda had the pace to stay up there, but traffic was difficult. I got snookered a little bit at some unsuspecting places. So, I’ll file that away for next time. Overall, I’m really proud of the effort for the team. Look at how we started the weekend, obviously very quick, but we had so much hard work that the guys put in and we made progress in every session.”
About leading the race: “When the others started pulling into the pits, we could outlast them on fuel mileage. I was in the car, so I didn’t get to see us at number one on the board, but I knew we were running first and second. It felt great, and there’s more of that to come.”
Joel Miller, Driver, No. 70 Mazda Prototype
“Coming into Long Beach, we knew the track really wasn’t the best match for our cars. We didn’t expect to be as competitive – but the first practice showed us ‘man, we’re in this thing!’ It raised the spirits and we’re happy with the results. The podium finish was right there and it slipped away from us. But, in two weeks, we go to Mazda Raceway, where we will be really strong.”
Tristan Nunez, Driver, No. 55 Mazda Prototype
“This track is like no other. It’s extremely tight and very hard to pass so I was really just maximizing every chance I got and used the controls inside the car [like traction control] to get everything I could out of the car. The car was good, so I could make those moves through the field, but it was a challenge. A really good result for Mazda. It’s still pretty early in the year, so it gives us a lot of hope. This is a street course, and we weren’t expecting to do what we were able to do. We’re scoring as many points as we can. Overall, really happy with it. It’s a boost of confidence going into the rest of the season.”
Jonathan Bomarito, Driver, No. 55 Mazda Prototype
“This is great for the program. The cars ran perfect with good pit stops, good driver changes and not a scratch on the cars. We leave Long Beach to our home track Mazda Raceway, and there’s a lot to look forward to there, and the rest of the season. We hoped to put a car on the podium – we just missed that. But we’re getting there.
About his entire stint racing with his teammate Miller: “Racing your teammate is the hardest racing you can do. We’re racing at 100 percent, on the edge of the grip level and you have a teammate in front of you. It’s risk and reward: there’s a lot of risk when you’re passing a teammate. Making contact, that’s the last thing you need for the team and Mazda. Joel’s pace was good, so it was a little bit of follow the leader for me to the finish.”
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, beginning with the MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.