Winning at Road America may have appeared to be a fairy tale for the drivers, crew and management of Mazda Team Joest, but that story was not yet written during the tense final laps of the Road Race Showcase at Road America on Sunday afternoon.
At the Six Hours Of The Glen at Watkins Glen, Mazda Team Joest broke through for its first victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship when the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P driven by Jonathan Bomarito, Olivier Pla and Harry Tincknell finished just ahead of the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P of Timo Bernhard, Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez. Highlighting how dominant the team’s performance was in Watkins Glen, Jarvis reset the Daytona Prototype international course record in qualifying.
One week later at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP), the positions were reversed as the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P scored its first victory of the season as Jarvis and Nunez scored their first victory of the season, with the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P of Bomarito and Tincknell in second place.
“If I have to be beat by another car, I’m really glad it’s the other Mazda!” Bomarito said afterwards.
Winning any IMSA race is a major accomplishment, but the mountain that Mazda Team Joest would have to climb to get to victory lane at Road America became taller before the team even arrived at the track. Based on the performance of the Mazda RT24-Ps at Watkins Glen and CTMP, the car was given a Balance of Performance adjustment before the race in which weight was added, and turbocharger boost was reduced.
The first couple of practice sessions at Road America looked to confirm the reduced pace of the Mazda, but Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito got the maximum out of their Mazdas, and themselves, to qualify in third and fourth positions for the race.
The two hour and forty-minute race became a battle between two teams, Mazda Team Joest and Team Penske. The four cars battled for the lead from the drop of the green flag, and the pit crews hurried to get their cars back on track first at each pit stop. Even with the adjustments, the Mazda RT24-Ps came alive over the course of the race, able to turn fast times while competitors struggled with tire degradation.
The turning point of the race came when Harry Tincknell executed an audacious pass for the lead of the race on the outside of turn one, playing a balancing act of aggression, braking performance and grip at 180 MPH. Once in the lead, Tincknell was almost unbeatable until lapped traffic played a role in the final two laps and he had a rear-view camera full of one of the Team Penske cars, and Jarvis in the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P ready to capitalize on any mistake by the two leaders.
Tincknell, however, withstood the pressure to cross the line first, scoring his and Bomarito’s second victory and the third straight for Mazda Team Joest.
“I couldn’t believe we took the checkered flag in first,” said Tincknell. “I had tears in my eyes on the cool down lap. It was really hard the last few laps when the other cars caught back up to me. Luckily, it still worked out and here we are with a third win for Mazda.”
“What a day, what a race,” said Bomarito. “This is huge for Mazda. We came into this race thinking that we didn’t have the fastest cars in the race. It was a flat-out race with no cautions, and it was really critical to manage traffic, tire wear, and our fuel numbers but the Mazda RT24-P did so well over a long run. This one, in a way, feels more rewarding because here we had to fight so hard.”