Mazda racer Jonathan Bomarito was the first to turn significant laps in the Mazda RT24-P at a recent test at Road Atlanta. He’s one of four full-time drivers that will pilot the new Mazda Prototype – built to the new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) rules – in the top class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the 2017 season. Bomarito gave us a briefing of his early impressions of the brand-new race car.
My first impression of the Mazda RT24-P was “WOW!” on both the visual of the car and from behind the wheel. It was an honor for me to participate in the launch of the car at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and it was so cool to see the reviews, text messages and Twitter blowing up for days. So, we all agree the car looks beautiful. The big question remaining was “is it fast?”
From the first moment I sat in the cockpit, I could tell the Multimatic/Riley-built car was maximized in every way. The cockpit is tight but has many safety upgrades, which is great. The seating position is quite a bit different with my legs much more elevated. Visibility is great and much improved along with the steering wheel and ergonomics for all the switches.
Any time you have a new race car, let alone a completely new design, the “shakedown” period is quite extensive. Even through this process, I felt a positive change in the grip level and overall balance of the race car, and could hear a difference in certain sounds inside the car. Working through the shakedown process and starting to lean on the car harder and harder, I was shocked how well-balanced the car was – and we hadn’t even started tuning on the chassis! This was very encouraging, and shows how well Riley/Multimatic has designed the car along with Mazda and SpeedSource engineers. So many smart people worked on this project, and it really showed from the first time we put the Prototype on the track.
Compared to the car we raced in 2016, the biggest difference for me has been the amount of downforce the RT-24 P has. You really have to trust the car mid-corner from a grip standpoint, and you have to make the commitment as a driver. A driver needs confidence to be able to push the car hard, and this car makes you want to push harder and harder which is a lot of fun and rewarding. Another area in testing that I have been impressed with is the new Continental tire. It seems to be a big improvement over last year’s tire. (The previous tire was designed for the heavier DP cars and P2 cars like ours struggled building temperature in the tire.) Now, the tires are up to temperature and ready to be pushed hard right away.
I am extremely excited to start our 2017 season after seeing and feeling the potential of our new Mazda prototype! We have a great car, partners, drivers and team to have a very successful season. I can’t wait!