Mazda Team Joest to begin testing in August – Motorsport.com, Edition: Global
The Mazda RT24-Ps, which have been withdrawn from the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, will begin 2018 testing “within the next 30-40 days”, as Joest and Multimatic aim to improve raceability and reliability.
The new union between Joest Racing and Mazda Motorsports, which was formally announced this morning, will see Joest re-establishing a US base, near Atlanta, Ga., and testing the Mazda Prototypes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ralf Juttner, managing director of Joest, said: “We want to bring all the experience that we have gathered in endurance racing into this project, and therefore I expect a really, really close relationship with Multimatic on the development of the car and the improvement on the car.
“We all know Multimatic knows how to build race cars. That is not a question. But we will put all our input together and try to come up with the best we can.
“We expect to be starting with the testing as soon as August – without going into detail on the test program – but in the next month we expect to have the car rolling.”
Director of motorsports for Mazda North American Operations, John Doonan, added: “Larry Holt and his team at Multimatic are dedicated in an all-hands-on-deck fashion to help us further develop that car. Our engines partners at AER are all-in, giving Mazda Team Joest the opportunity to get out and test with [current drivers] Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nuñez, Joe Miller, Tom Long to put miles on that package [and] prepare for every potential scenario that we could face heading into the 2018 season.
“We are going to the racetrack to do one thing, and that’s to win races and win championships for the Mazda brand and for all the Mazda fans.”
Juttner admitted that homologation issues would make modifying the RT24-P difficult, he said he believed it had great potential.
“Of course there are restrictions with the homologation of the cars,” he said. “There are areas that can be touched and areas that are more difficult to be touched.
“We are going, together with Multimatic, the IMSA organization, the technical guys there, to make sure that we don’t leave anything out where we can put hands on. It’s not that you have a clean sheet of paper and you can start from scratch, that’s clear. But I still think there’s a lot of potential that can be unlocked.
“The testing will be done with a car that does already have some modifications in it. We expect more to come throughout the remainder of this year until then we have a version that we think is the right one to start the season in 2018.
“The other thing is that we need to work on reliability, because that’s the first thing that you have to have in order to finish on top. That’s clear.”
Doonan said the emphasis needed to be on upping the performance of the cars which have lagged behind Cadillac and Nissan in terms of pace this year, and which are expecting stern opposition from the new-for-2018 Acura-Penske DPi program.
“Within the regulations we’re going to do what we can,” he added. “More so than reliability, I think it’s more raceability and competitiveness. That’s our focus.
“Clearly, from an engine standpoint, we’ve found a sweet spot right now. But Larry Holt, and his Multimatic team, Peter Gibbons, Stephen Charsley, Julian Robertson. Everyone there is laser-focused on doing what we can to make the Mazda RT24-P the best package it can be going forward as we take on all those at the top level of the championship.
“So, again, can’t share too many details, but definitely interested in our raceability and our ability to compete up front versus reliability and durability. Those things I know Ralf and his team are focused on… elements of durability and reliability. I think my keen interest is on how we’re going to be able to race this package against the best that’s out there.”
2018 driver lineup to be revealed in the fall
Although testing will begin with Bomarito, Nunez, Miller and Long, Doonan stated that any changes would likely be made by the time of the IMSA season finale at Petit Le Mans in October.
“We believe in the group of drivers that have represented us in the prototype program to date,” he said. “As Ralf shared, we hope to be on track testing within the next 30 or 40 days. Our current driver lineup will be part of that testing program.
“Hopefully sometime prior to the end of the 2017 championship we’ll be able to make an announcement around our driver lineup that will carry us into 2018.”
Juttner commented: “Mazda has their drivers which they have raced up to now… They have grown them through their own famous and very good system, which they are very proud about and rightly so.
“We have not worked with any of these drivers up to now. I’m looking forward to do that. I’m very open to start working with those guys. The rest we will see. As John said, he hopes to have a final driver lineup by the end of the season. Whether there is a change or not, we can’t tell yet.
“It’s not that we are coming with a whole wagon of drivers in our bag trying to bring those in. That’s not the case. We respect that it’s Mazda’s responsibility to contract the drivers.
“We will discuss together, as we have done in the past, because it is important, because the driver and the team relationship is a very important one. But I’m sure that we will find a good solution there.”