Mazdas sweep front row, led the race easily before trouble arose.
IRVINE, Calif. (May 1, 2016) – What had been a perfect weekend for the Mazda Prototype team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca turned into disappointment in the final hour of today’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda. Tristan Nunez, who started on the pole position, and co-driver Jonathan Bomarito finished fourth in the No. 55 Mazda Prototype, which matches the best-ever finish for the team. The No. 70 Mazda driven by Tom Long recorded the fastest lap of the race (1:19.206) and ran in second place before handing over to co-driver Joel Miller. Unfortunately, soon after Miller climbed aboard, the oil pump failed, knocking the car from the race. They finished eighth in the Prototype class and 18th overall.
Until trouble found the No. 70, it had been a dominating performance by the two-car team. The Mazdas swept first and second place in each of the three practices sessions. In qualifying, Nunez scored the pole position with a record-breaking lap for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series. Long was close behind in second, completing the front-row sweep. It was the best qualifying performance ever for the team.
When the race began, Nunez led with Long second for the first 25 laps (40 minutes into the two-hour race), pulling away from the rest of the field by more than 16 seconds. A yellow flag then flew, and the two Mazda came to the pits for fuel, tires and driver changes. An issue with refueling the No. 55 car led to a lengthy stop, which dropped new driver Bomarito to sixth place. At the restart, Bomarito sliced through the field, aggressively climbing to second place.
Running second to the eventual winner, Bomarito saw an opportunity to make a pass for the lead in heavy traffic going into Turn 10, but spun into the gravel at the exit of the corner. He was able to continue, but the tires were damaged enough that he was unable to match his earlier pace.
Tristan Nunez, Driver, No. 55 Mazda Prototype
About winning the pole and leading 25 laps: “It was a beautiful feeling. No one in front of me, just a clear track ahead and leading in a Mazda at Mazda Raceway is an incredible feeling. Really a dream come true for me. There’s a lot of positives that came out of this weekend, and that’s all we can look forward to. We take the positives, get rid of the negatives. Whatever we need to work on, we learn and work on it at the shop. Look forward – that’s all we can do.
“We were so much faster than the field. Just a great car all weekend. The engineers stepped-up their game and gave us a heck of a car. Everyone has a huge amount of passion and we all share that same drive to get that win. It’s just a matter of time. We worked all of last year working on pit stops and strategies, and now we’ve just gotta make it all work together.”
Jonathan Bomarito, Driver, No. 55 Mazda Prototype
About jumping from sixth into second in only a few laps: “I knew we had the refueling issue, so I knew I had to push hard to get by the [Daytona Prototypes] because we didn’t want the No. 60 [eventual winner] car to get away. We were able to do that. It was fantastic and it was good, hard racing.
About the spin: “We had some traffic coming into [Turn] 10 and I saw an opportunity to go for the lead. It was just a little bit too aggressive getting back on the power and lost the rear-end. So, that was pretty much our race right there. Once you spin and flat-spot or hurt the tires, there’s not any coming back from that. We were on a storybook weekend and we didn’t finish it so I’m gutted for the team and everyone at Mazda and SpeedSource. These guys work harder than anybody else, so you wear that on your shoulders as a driver and you want it for them really bad.”
Tom Long, Driver, No. 70 Castrol/ModSpace Mazda Prototype
“Today was a difficult day, but if you look at the weekend as a whole, we had an incredible effort from our whole Mazda Motorsports team. The car that they gave me to race was absolutely fantastic. It was on rails around Mazda Raceway. It felt so good to be out there and set the fastest lap of the race. We certainly had the pace, but things didn’t fall our way today. It’s difficult to deal with, but you just swallow it and it fuels you for for the next time.”
Joel Miller, Driver, No. 70 Castrol/ModSpace Mazda Prototype
“I don’t know if ‘character building’ is the right term. But, this is motorsports and these things can happen at the worst times. The 55 car battled through and came home with fourth – again matching our best result. The highlight of the weekend for us was to lead every practice and qualifying on the front row.
“Being as dominant as we were, I think that’s where we’re supposed to be for a team of this caliber. We went out there and did our jobs. The results are coming. Now, we know we’re going to show up at each race and have the potential to do that. It’s expected to be that way. We’re going to work on our set-ups to be better when we get to the next race.”
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 Global 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.