The two Mazda Team Joest RT24-Ps have been sent to the back of the Prototype field but John Doonan of Mazda is expecting the cars to be “in the hunt” in the closing stages of the 66th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
After qualifying seventh and ninth, the Mazdas failed technical inspection for taping the bodywork seams.
But Doonan, director Mazda Motorsports North America declared: “The goal of yesterday and today was to get ready for tomorrow, and I think that tomorrow is about consistency and being able to be fast over the duration of the race. And I think we have a package that can do that.
“Tire degradation will be an important factor for the guys to manage, but last night we proved that our car is good at night. Sebring plays tricks on your mind perhaps more than any other place because the race starts out cool in the morning, gets very warm in the middle of the day, and then the sun goes down and it is very cool again.
"Based on what we saw last night [when Mazdas finished the third practice in first and second] we’ll be in the hunt.”
Rene Rast, who will share the #77 with Tristan Nunez and Olly Jarvis, said of qualifying: “Obviously, the warm conditions made things a bit more difficult for all of us. The car was very good for the first lap, but then the rear tires began to get a bit warm and it was very difficult to drive the car.
“But still I think we can be happy with the pace that we had. We improved a lot from Daytona to here and we are much closer to the competition.
"And, as we saw yesterday in the night practice, as soon as it gets a bit cooler we are working the tires better than the competition. Once we get to the night it should be very good for us.”
Added Jonathan Bomarito, whose co-drivers are Harry Tincknell and Spencer Pigot: “The team has been working non-stop since Daytona, and it definitely showed with our performance this weekend.
"Even with the high heat, however, I think our car is going to be really good over a stint and for the duration of the race, and we’ll just try to stay out of trouble and keep the car under us so we can really push in the closing stages of the race.”