More demanding Prototypes suit our drivers, says Mazda chief

John Doonan, director of motorsports at Mazda North American Operations, says the greater physical and mental demands of the faster DPi-spec Mazda RT24-P should be an advantage for the IMSA team’s youth-led driver lineup.

More demanding Prototypes suit our drivers, says Mazda chief
Tristan Nunez, Mazda Motorsports
Sylvain Tremblay tests the Mazda RT24-P
#70 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype: Joel Miller, Tom Long, Spencer Pigot, pit action
Mazda RT24-P Prototype
Mazda RT24-P Prototype
Mazda RT24-P Prototype
Mazda RT24-P Prototype
Mazda RT24-P Prototype
Mazda RT24-P Prototype
#70 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype: Joel Miller, Tom Long, Spencer Pigot
Mazda RT24-P Prototype

 The DPi Prototypes headline the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2017, and have replaced the ageing Daytona Prototypes which were based on a concept that debuted in 2003.

A DPi car is a standard ACO/FIA homologated 2017 LMP2 Prototype chassis from one of the four approved constructors – in Mazda’s case, that’s Riley/Multimatic – fitted with IMSA-homologated, manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork and engines.

The Mazda RT24-P was unveiled at the LA Auto Show earlier this month, and will be driven full-time this season by Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez, Joel Miller and Tom Long, who have all tested the car, including at Road Atlanta, home of Petit Le Mans.

Said Doonan: “Overall we’re four inches skinnier, seven inches longer than last year based on the regulations. Someone asked if it felt like [the car] had a trailer hanging out behind us, but [#55 driver] Jonathan Bomarito’s comment right away was that, ‘No, it just felt so predictable.’”

Doonan was understandably reticent about going into specifics comparing the new car with the old, but told Motorsport.com: “There have been a lot of rumors about how quick these DPi cars are going to be, and the advantages are in cornering based on the level of downforce, and certainly there’s an advantage in straightline speed.

“So over the course of a lap there are significant improvements. Hopefully the Daytona test in a few weeks will give us all a sense of how different the lap times are compared with the previous car.

“One particular set of data shows the car is significantly better than where we were [with the old car] here two months ago at Petit Le Mans.”

Asked if the greater physical and mental demands of the car will favor younger, fitter drivers, Doonan said: “I do think that is a competitive advantage for us. We have invested in young talent, and everybody we decide to put in these cars goes through a rigorous evaluation.

“We do think we have a distinct advantage there and I can tell you these guys are in the best shape of their lives.

“The cockpit dimensions of these new cars is much tighter than everyone is used to, and my first comment on seeing the car was, ‘I bet these drivers feel like they’re racing formula cars, because they feel more part of the car.’”

Doonan said there were typical new-car “nagging things” such as gearbox cooling issues that had needed addressing on the RT24, and added that Mazda had been using its 2016 engines in the test. The upgraded motors will incorporate “updates very much focused on reliability,” he said.

“Our engine spec in the test was not the same as what we will run in 2017,” he added. “Next week is required dyno testing for us at IMSA [with the new engine]. Then we will be back on track December 13th and 14th for two days at Daytona with IMSA, with additional days of private testing there.”

All four of Mazda’s full-timers have now tested the Mazda RT24-P, but Doonan was unable to confirm who will get the third-driver roles for the #55 and #70 cars in IMSA’s four endurance races – Rolex 24 at Daytona, Sebring 12 Hours, Watkins Glen 6 Hours, and Petit Le Mans.

Nonetheless, Motorsport.com sources strongly suggest 2015 Indy Lights champion and 2016 IndyCar part-timer Spencer Pigot will reprise a role in which he excelled in 2016.

Doonan said: “We are yet to get our Daytona lineups to where we can announce it, but Mazda Road To Indy and Mazda Road To 24 graduates are absolute commitments and we will definitely have more of those.”

shares
comments
Cadillac reveals new IMSA Prototype for Action Express and Wayne Taylor teams
Previous article

Cadillac reveals new IMSA Prototype for Action Express and Wayne Taylor teams

Next article

Rebellion Racing returns to IMSA competition

Rebellion Racing returns to IMSA competition
Load comments
The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence Prime

The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence

Following the latest convergence connection permitting Le Mans Hypercars from the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete against LMDh entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023, it could open up enticing options not only to manufacturers but also for the calendar and race formats

WEC
Jul 13, 2021
Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy Prime

Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy

Can Mazda win this year’s IMSA Prototype championship? Undoubtedly. But it will be the culmination of an achingly hard struggle, after which the brand has decided to quit. David Malsher-Lopez tells the story of a bizarre blend of heartache and positivity.

IMSA
Apr 6, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Prime

Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

After a 100-minute sprint race to whet the appetite, the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship gets underway properly this weekend. With plenty of significant changes during the winter, here are the key points you need to keep an eye on

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars Prime

Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars

Having gone over seven years without a race win through spells with McLaren, Renault and Haas, Kevin Magnussen's departure from Formula 1 for IMSA with big-hitters Chip Ganassi Racing could give him what he craves most - a chance of success

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked Prime

The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked

The 2020 edition of the Florida sportscar classic is finally taking place this weekend, eight months after its traditional date in March. That meant there was plenty of time for Motorsport.com to pour over its previous 67 races and select the best.

IMSA
Nov 11, 2020