“We will do everything all out, as if it is a race,” said Ralf Jüttner, Joest Racing’s managing director, to a room of engineers and drivers the night before the first test session for the new Mazda Team Joest. The test was primarily a shakedown for the team to learn how best to work on the Mazda RT24-P car, but it was conducted as if a race victory was on the line. That session, held last month at the Hockenheimring in Germany, set the tone for what is to come in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Mazda’s new factory race team.
It’s all-out, all of the time.
It’s a philosophy that has made Joest a dominating endurance racing team for four decades, and it is a perfect match with Mazda’s constant striving for automotive excellence and the company’s “Never Stop Challenging” ethos.
“If you are dedicated to success and winning, it comes down to people and processes,” said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports. “Our first test day was a prime example of teamwork that made the test extremely productive, and everyone learned a great deal. The enthusiasm and camaraderie among the team was a validation of our new partnership.”
From the driver’s seat, Tristan Nunez was at a loss for words to decide how well the day went.
“It was pretty incredible,” said Nunez. “I gave the engineer [Nils Henning] feedback, and right away all of the guys knew what to do. And, they did it at a level I’ve never seen before. We did more than 150 laps of testing, so there were lots of things happening at the same time. There was never a period where nothing was happening, and it took my first outing to absorb everything. After that, I gelled with everyone and it became second-nature.”
The trust between the young driver and team was established early in the day when Nunez believed the wet track had dried enough to switch from rain tires to slicks. The tires were changed, and Nunez was soon back at high speed. The brisk work by the engineers and the team was even more impressive considering they had neither raced nor tested since the end of the 2016 season. If there was rust, it wasn’t visible to the naked eye.
“The work ethic and how everyone works together is pretty incredible,” said Nunez. “The fact that they have guys who have been there for decades shows the loyalty and that everyone wants to be there and work together.”
In performing just as they would in a race, test drivers Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito and René Rast all returned to the track with high-revving, tire-smoking departures from the pit box — much to the delight of the Joest team, who had become used to quiet, electric-powered departures in recent years of the World Endurance Championship. The smiles were contagious.
“It was a terrific moment for the Mazda brand and our motorsports program,” said Doonan. “The feeling is mutual on the Joest Racing side. We have so much more testing and development before the season begins. Now is time to push hard to put results on the board… That’s the goal, period.”