Mazda has made significant changes to its driver ranks by replacing half of the roster that drove its RT24-P Daytona Prototype internationals in 2017.
The returnees to the upgraded Mazda Team Joest program include Jonathan Bomarito, who acted as a leader among the team’s young or inexperienced prototype drivers, his teammate Tristan Nunez, and North American Endurance Cup (NAEC) driver Spencer Pigot, who will pilot a car at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The new Mazda DPi talent draws from Team Joest’s time running Audi’s factory LMP1-Hybrid program and one of the breakout stars of Ford’s World Endurance Championship GT effort as Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell and Rene Rast complete the six-man rotation (It was also announced Tuesday that Tincknell will remain with Ford for the 2018/19 FIA WEC Super Season).
In Rast (below, right), Mazda Team Joest will have Audi’s reigning DTM champion on its side at the NAEC races. Like IndyCar full-timer Pigot, Rast will be involved when he isn’t busy defending his DTM crown. With Jarvis (below, center), another Audi LMP1 graduate, the team has its first LMP2 class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And in 2014 LMP2 Le Mans winner Tincknell (below, left), the MTJ outfit receives an Allan McNish protégé who has become one of the brightest young stars of international sports car racing.
Jarvis and Tincknell replace Tom Long and Joel Miller. While the two will no longer drive for Mazda in IMSA, both are expected to continue with the company in different roles. On the part-time side, Rast replaces a combination of James Hinchcliffe and Marino Franchitti.
Although the final trios have yet to be set, it’s believed the No. 55 car will combine Bomarito and Tincknell for the full season with Pigot for the enduros between his IndyCar obligations with Ed Carpenter Racing. The No. 70 entry is expected to position Jarvis as its new leader/mentor for 22-year-old Nunez with Rast contributing his vast experience to the effort at NAEC events.
By drawing from a pool of respected factory drivers to pair with those who’ve been retained, the Atlanta-based Mazda Team Joest effort aims to expedite its goals of winning races and championships.
“You name it, and we have it when it comes to our 2018 prototype driver lineup,” Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan told RACER. “Proven race and championship winners from Le Mans, DTM, Sebring, and Daytona,….to Mazda Road to 24 and Mazda Road to Indy success stories. We believe that this combination of proven drivers who have come through the Mazda system interwoven with drivers that Joest Racing and Multimatic brought to the table, so to speak, gives us our best opportunity for success from the drop of the first green flag.
“The Mazda driver development system has a very plentiful pipeline of driver talent. We continue to plan to do all that we can to keep top talent from the Mazda system in our family. Some of those drivers may have a slightly different role at certain times–several of whom will be the subject of future announcements, but we believe strongly in the system we have developed and will continue to refine it to have it fulfill its purpose. Some remain with us, while the likes of John Edwards, Joey Hand, Tristan Vautier, Connor DePhillippi, and dozens of others have ended up with opportunities representing other top brands…and we are very proud of them.”
Jarvis leapt at the chance to continue his association with Joest and lend his skills to Mazda’s burgeoning DPi program.
“It was an easy decision when the opportunity arose to be part of it,” said the Briton. “Having raced in and won both the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, the IMSA championship is one I know very well. It has always been a goal of mine to race in the championship full-time and I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be part of it as the championship continues to grow.”
Germany’s Rast added: “I worked with Joest Racing in 2015 and 2016, and I enjoyed every single day with their team. They are one of the most professional teams I have worked with and the atmosphere is always very relaxed but focused. Obviously, it’s a big honor driving for Mazda and one of the most successful endurance racing teams on this planet. The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is always one of my favorite races of the year and I can’t wait to hit the track again. Racing after a long winter break is always great and that’s also what I look forward to the most.”
Complementing his European GT seat with the Blue Oval with a top-tier prototype in America with Mazda is big step for Tincknell.
“The whole Mazda team has put in so much effort and made a lot of progress in every area, and after my first test in the car I can’t wait to see how we get on at Daytona,” said the Englishman, who will juggle IMSA and WEC duties. “The Mazda RT24-P DPi has taken huge strides over the winter and I immediately felt comfortable in the car. I know the championship is very competitive and it will be a tough fight, but the spirit of the whole team is so determined and ready for it.”
After curtailing its 2017 program in July to redevelop the RT24-P with Team Joest, Mazda’s full 2018 lineup and the revamped Nos. 55 and 70 entries will make their debut at the Jan. 5-7 Roar Before The 24 at Daytona International Speedway.