– Issues Slow Both Mazdas in Early Stages —
IRVINE, Calif. (March 19, 2017) – Despite early setbacks, the Mazda Prototype team earned a fifth-place finish in the Prototype class in today’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. The No. 55 Soul Red Mazda RT24-P, with drivers Jonathan Bomarito, Spencer Pigot and Tristan Nunez, soldiered on to finish the 12-hour race 29th overall but fifth among all Prototypes. The team car, the No. 70 Mazda, with Joel Miller, Tom Long and Marino Franchitti driving, overcame a crash early in the race, made repairs and returned, only to find a cracked suspension piece that put them out of the race. The No. 70 team finished 8th in the Prototype class.
The race started on a low note, as Jonathan Bomarito suffered a flat left-rear tire on lap two. After repairs, he returned to the race one lap down. Bomarito fought back to the lead lap, and handed the car to Pigot, who climbed to fourth place overall before a coolant leak forced the 55 team to the garage with eight hours remaining. After lengthy repairs, they returned to complete the 12 hour grind.
In the No. 70 car, Joel Miller suffered a right-rear brake failure approximately 60 minutes into the race. The trouble sent Miller into a tire barrier at the end of the longest straightaway. Despite the scary looking crash, Miller was uninjured and the car suffered mostly cosmetic damage. The crew made repairs and the car returned to action 90 minutes later. With four hours remaining, the team discovered a broken suspension piece, likely a result of the earlier crash.
The next race is April 8 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
— Quotes: Drivers of the No. 55 Soul Red Mazda Prototype — Jonathan Bomarito
“The ups and downs of racing are crazy sometimes. [The flat tire] was very unexpected. We haven’t had a tire go down for a long, long time, and it was the second lap of the race! That was pretty heartbreaking, but we knew had 12 hours to go. The guys did a good job of handling that. By the time I got out of the car, we were back on the lead lap. The race was going well until we had some more issues and we lost quite a few laps. We finished fifth. but the whole team worked hard. We worked through it, and a top-five finish at Sebring is never bad. We can build off of that.”
“After the few early setbacks, we really had a flawless race. The guys did a great job in the pit lane and with the strategy. It’s nice to know that as a team we had a decent race. It was a few things out of our control – like the flat tire – that hurt us. I think we’re building and learning more each lap, and it’ll only get better.”
“[The crew] did a heck of a job. We were in the garage early but made a fast change. It was awesome that they really pushed hard – especially on the pit stops. I don’t think we had any issues in the pit lane the whole 12 hours. I’m pretty impressed and pretty happy with the guys and very happy with the effort.”
— Quotes: Drivers of the No. 70 Castrol Edge / ModSpace Machine Gray Mazda Prototype —
Joel Miller, Driver, No. 70 Castrol Edge/ ModSpace Mazda Prototype
About his high-speed crash: “You just pull your hands off the wheel and pray. No driver ever wants that failure. There’s two things a driver needs: a steering wheel and brakes. But, I was really glad to be able to get back out there. We were trucking forward and got to sixth place due to attrition, which was good. You have to look at our pace compared with the Prototype cars other than the winning Cadillacs, and we were running with them, so that’s where we needed to be. It was the hottest part of the day when I got back in the car again, and it behaved alright, which makes it a big bummer to not to finish this one. The long races are done, so now we go sprint racing. It’s a totally different mindset and we’ll have some fight for them at Long Beach.”
Tom Long, Driver
“An incredible effort from all of our crew. The No. 70 certainly persevered today. We faced a bunch of challenges and we were able to fight back and have a decent pace through the middle part of the race. It was a lot of fun – typical Sebring. Lots of traffic and conditions were really hot, but our Mazda was chugging along and doing what we could to make it to the end. We just succumbed to some of the bumps and harshness the Sebring track has to offer.”
“It was great hustle for the team to get the car back out there after Joel’s issue. I was delighted to see the strength and safety of the car that he was in such good shape. I really wanted to get into the race, so I was really happy. I had a completely dirty, opaque [wind]screen in my first stint – I couldn’t see a thing! We fixed that and my second stint was a blast. To be back at Sebring in the Mazda Prototype racing through the field was so much fun and I was looking forward to more of it. I learned a lot and I know we learned a lot as a team. We’re early in the life of this car so we’ll keep improving it. Sebring showed itself to be the ‘car-breaker’ it is – you see that up and down the Prototype field.”
John Doonan, director, Mazda Motorsports
“It’s the first finish for the brand new Mazda RT24-P, and it’s nice to be able to come across the line with a top-five finish after truly a challenging week. We have a lot to be proud of, but we have a lot of work to do if we’re going to compete for race wins and championships. Between our technical partners, Multimatic, Riley and AER, we’re going to gather everyone and figure out the way forward to do exactly that.”
Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24) 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 (#MRTI) 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.