Mazda Team Joest’s full-time driver rotation will look familiar to IMSA fans, but its endurance line-up has undergone a significant reboot as Timo Bernhard, the three-time overall Le Mans winner, American Le Mans Series, and World Endurance Championship title winner, and top-tier ace Olivier Pla anchor the DPi program.
Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell will build on the experience gained in 2018 as they lead the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P effort with Pla added in for the four long races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Petit Le Mans.
With the sister No. 77, Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez will do the same as they enter their second season as teammates. Bernhard will join the duo at the endurance events, and Rene Rast, who filled Bernhard’s role last year, is set to compete in the No. 77 at Daytona as its fourth driver. Ongoing commitments with Audi in the DTM series could limit Rast’s involvement beyond the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but the MTJ team has kept the door open if he’s available to do more races in America.
“There is no question that that the level of competition in IMSA continues to rise every year,” said John Doonan, Mazda’s director of motorsports. “Class rule separation between DPi and LMP2 mean some adjustments heading into 2019, so everyone at AER, Multimatic, and Mazda Team Joest have been working extremely hard to be prepared with our two Mazda RT24-Ps. The cars have performed incredibly well throughout our winter testing program and we are very much looking forward to kicking things off at Daytona.
“We’ve stated from the beginning that our goal is to achieve success for Mazda, Mazda’s dealers and employees, and ultimately the Mazda fans around the world. With this car, and this line-up of drivers, we are poised to make that happen in this 50th year of IMSA competition. As a partner with IMSA for nearly all of those 50 years, Mazda is excited to write some new history in the 2019 championship.”
For Bernhard, the opportunity came when he approached Doonan about driving for the team in October at Road Atlanta, where MTJ challenged for victory at Petit Le Mans.
“I have a great memory with Team Joest as we won the 24 Hours of Le Mans together back in 2010,” he said. “I have known John Doonan from Mazda for almost 10 years, from the ALMS days, and I have always recognized the passion for motorsport that Mazda has shown. The Mazda RT24-P showed great progress over 2018 and was a strong contender at the end of the season. Sharing the car with super teammates like Olly and Rene who I know well, as well as my new teammate Tristan, made the package very interesting and I was very enthusiastic to join Mazda Team Joest.”
In Pla, MTJ receives one of prototype racing’s standout performers whose reputation as a chassis development and setup expert will bring added value to the squad.
“I’m really delighted for the opportunity to join Mazda Team Joest for the endurance races at this very exciting time for the DPi category and the IMSA championship,” he said. “The level of competition is extremely high but looking at the very strong end of the season Mazda had in 2018, I just can’t wait to race and fight at the front in 2019. I’ve known Harry for a long time, we have wanted to share a car for a long time, and now I’m really happy to be in the Mazda RT24-P with him.”