IMSA Glory Past

In 2011, Mazda won an IMSA championship with Dyson Racing

Mazda currently races – and has several pole positions and podium finishes – with the smallest engine in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship. It was that way in 2011 as well, when the Dyson Racing Team’s Mazda-powered Lola took the American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship with Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. Not only did the team achieve the drivers’ and team championships as well as capture class wins at Sebring, an overall win at Lime Rock, and a victory for the sister car at Baltimore, but it did so without a single engine failure during the season.

“Our American Le Mans Series championship with Mazda was the culmination of three years of hard work, during which the team and all of its partners worked tremendously close and endured all of the trials and tribulations to achieve the goal,” recalls Dyson. “From a personal standpoint, it was enormously satisfying because we knew inherently that the Mazda-Lola combination was a very strong one. 

“AER [Advanced Engine Research] supplied the engines, which were developed at a massive rate in those days. All of those relationships were leveraged to the hilt. I think we brought home some great results for Mazda to give them their first LMP2 and LMP success, and then to sweep the manufacturers’ championship and drivers’ championship – it was just a massive effort and a huge achievement, and I think it has become even better with time.”

The Mazda MZR-R engine developed for the program proved extremely capable and reliable. It would later provide power for the Indy Lights championship, and the MZ-2.0T currently used in the Mazda RT24-P is a development of the MZR-R. It’s remarkable longevity for an engine platform in modern motorsports.

The Dyson-Mazda partnership came about as Dyson was concluding a relationship with another manufacturer, and Mazda was transitioning from another team. The pairing proved to be a great opportunity for both.

“It was a very cohesive and quick fit for us,” Dyson enthuses. “Robert Davis [Mazda North American Operations Vice President] was extremely supportive and John Doonan [Director, Mazda Motorsports] was a real champion for the effort. I would like to say that Dyson and Mazda together turned that program around. To be in victory lane at Lime Rock just a few races after we began, to be on pole and winning overall the next year at Mid-Ohio, and the championship in 2011, to have the closest finish in IMSA history at Road America…those were some memorable times to say the least.”

Mazda’s efforts at the highest level of American prototype sports car racing continue later this month with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International on June 28-30.